Sunday, December 5, 2010

Presidential Imaging

For anyone who knows me, they know that my political leanings are definitely toward the left. The Clinton Presidency convinced me of which direction I would take, and eight years of George W. Bush cemented that decision for me. So, when I write this post, I fully understand where my biases lie. That being said, this was just too fun a topic to dismiss.

I was on Wikipedia, confirming to my friend the President after Warren Harding (it was Calvin Coolidge). On Wikipedia's list of Presidents, portraits of each President appear next to their name. Looking at all of the portraits, I came near the end, looking at the images of Clinton and Bush, respectively. The portraits themselves tell so much about each men that you could probably figure each man out just by looking at them.

When I clicked on the Clinton image, the first thought was, "This guy was a pimp." Look at the head-on pose, the slight smirk, the one hand in the pocket and the other placed on the desk next to him. This is a guy who is saying, "I am the fuckin' President of the United States, baby!" Hell, the oil painting almost makes his blue suit look velvet. Even the light blue tie (try to find anyone else in the gallery who wore such a tie; everyone else looks like they got theirs from Brooks Brothers), that is a statement. In this image alone, you can see what made liberals love him and conservatives hate him. To liberals, he was a charismatic leader; to conservatives, he was slick huckster. Either way, just from the portrait alone, you can tell he owned the room.

And then, there was George. Oh, poor George. Look at his body language, the arms hanging gracelessly on each side, the shoulders drooping slightly. The look on his face suggests him asking, "You want me to stand here?" The suit jacket looks like it was hastily thrown on, at the last minute, with the sleeve coming out of one arm but not the other. You'd almost expect that he doesn't belong here, like he's going to get in trouble if someone saw him getting his picture taken in this room.

Now, this isn't the official portrait of Bush. This is, and there's a whole blog in that portrait alone. That being said, whichever picture of Bush you choose, the Clinton image proclaims, "I am the President!", while the Bush one says, "I am the President?" Kind of mirrors those 16 years quite well.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

40 randomly awesome people, places, things.

Originally this was going to be 100, but for the five or six people that would read this, it would take way too long to get through if I did that. Therefore, it's 40. Since I did this over several days, I go through interesting phases - you can almost see which segments were done separately. In no particular order, as you can see by #1.

1. Vanilla Tootsie Rolls. They taste like cake frosting.
3. The horn section in Sam and Dave's "Hold On I'm Comin'".
4. My friend, a sportswriter, writing an article that wasn't about sports. It was about much more.
5. The Ice Man.
6. This poem.
7. CUP OF COFFEE IN THE BIG TIME! No, I still don't watch this.
8. Jumbo's Clown Room.
9. This website. Reason #47 why I'm a nerd.
10. Introducing Harry Lime.
11. Kandinsky
12. "If you still love rock n' roll..." Best live band I've ever seen, bar none.
13. Tanqueray and Tonic, two limes.
14. This baseball card. My main man.
15. "It pays right, I'll do it..."
16. Chief Sitting Bull. A legitimate bad-ass. Doubt me? Read this book.
17. Omar Little. Another legitimate bad-ass, albeit fictional. Watch The Wire. Don't even want to put up a clip, because every scene he's in matters. If you have seen the show, watch it all in a row.
18. Mastro's Bone-In Rib Eye, Creamed Corn and Lobster Mashed Potatoes.
19. One of the greatest comedians and nicest celebrities I've ever met. R.I.P.
20. There's a reason that a movie was made about this guy. This fight. This round.
21. Since I didn't put any Omar clips, I'll still give the actor, Michael K. Williams, some credit. This scene of him in Boardwalk Empire brought the show up another level.
22. "Thanks for the sour persimmons, cousin." Yes, I could put 50 Warner Bros. cartoons up here.
23. The greatest moment during my last year of college lasted 4.8 seconds.
24. The lyric "She was a really cool kisser and she wasn't all that strict of a Christian" from this song.
25. Whether or not Keith Olbermann still has a show (he does - wrote this one before he came back), he'll always have this moment.
26. The Andy Warhol Life Savers' prints.
27. This guy will always make the list.
28. Malcolm Gladwell's books. Any of them. A great read.
29. Cufflinks. I wear them every chance I get. And I need to get these.
30. This website. Still holds up after all of these years, and it's where I got my Twitter avatar!
31. Comedy needs to take chances. This was one of the best examples of that. Part one.
32. Part two.
33. Her.
34. I have a feeling that Sterling-Cooper didn't do this commercial. No matter, still powerful television.
35. Sometimes, words can't describe how bad an album is. This critic - on a site that lives for incredibly-verbose reviews - realized this when giving a 0.0 wasn't enough.
36. Say what you want about the guy, whatever the politics are, the guy knows how to give a speech.
37. The one sporting event - no doubt whatsoever - I wish I had attended.
38. The one fictional sporting event - no doubt whatsoever - I wish I had attended. Forget the fact that the last round was less than a minute.
39. My favorite comedienne of all time. Imagination is a good thing.
40. I'll end with my favorite heroine. Le sigh...

Monday, August 9, 2010

The Wonder

Tomorrow, I will be 40 years old.

At the moment, I am sitting in a Chinese restaurant, by myself, on my last day of my 30s. I ordered from the "Family Value Menu", even though I'm ordering for one (hell, it's a good bargain). I'm not saying this to be depressing; honestly, I'm not depressed. If I was depressed, I'd be eating Arby's at home. The only thing that I am disappointed about is that I just didn't go all out and go to Roscoe's Chicken and Waffles. Now, that's good eating.

Actually, I feel worse for the guy sitting across the restaurant. He's of Spanish descent, I'm guessing, and he's getting a complete hard-sell from this woman regarding investing in a full-service gym. The woman reminds me a lot of someone I worked with at my last job whom I called a bitch to her face. The guy has a bit of a hangdog expression and he's wearing - I kid you not - a sweatshirt with "FBI - Female Body Inspector" on it. The poor sap has no chance.

So, I'm not depressed. The question that I keep asking myself, though, is why am I not depressed? I'm on the cusp of 40; I'm single, and have been for a while; I was let go from my job at a studio that I was at for almost ten years; and, to be honest, there are no immediate prospects on either front. Yet I'm okay. I'm definitely fitter than when I left my job. No longer having asinine marketing executives nipping at my heels and talking behind my back has made me more at peace. Not having a girlfriend has not been ideal, but I have plenty of friends, and meeting the right girl is just a matter of when, not if, to me - I'm a major league hitter driving around a bunch of line drives directly into fielders' gloves; eventually, some of those swats are going to drop for base hits (yeah, self-confidence isn't my issue, I gather).

So, as I said, I'm not depressed. Great. But does it mean that I'm happy? Well, let's not go too far. I am aware of my situation. The truth is, as happens to many men, you realize that something is missing in your life. For me, it's a sense of wonder, and I really, really want it back.

Remember when you were a kid and you could look at something and think it was the most amazing thing in the world? Usually, it wasn't, but that didn't matter. To you, it was. Every time I see my godson get to a new level on a game of Nintendo Wii, you'd think he just saw the entrance to Valhalla. Six year-old kids own the patent on wonder. If you could bottle up the energy from kids seeing something great for the first time, you wouldn't need British Petroleum.

Unfortunately, for me, that feeling is rare. Soon-to-be-40-years of cynicism makes it quite hard to turn that emotion back on. I've come close recently - in Paris, standing in the Pompidou Museum at a wall of Picassos was quite amazing. But I used to get it a lot more, with music, with art, with...well, everything. So, I need to jump-start that feeling again.

It is time to start seeing the world as new again. Immerse myself. By the time I'm writing again at 49 and 364/365 years, I hope to have seen, heard and experienced hundreds and thousands of new and exciting things. What are those things? Still have to figure them out. Any suggestions? Help me get moving. To loosely quote a comic bit in a Queens of the Stone Age song, "I need a saga." Who wants to join me?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

My June 17, 1994

Everyone remembers the moment they saw O.J. Simpson's slow white Bronco going down the San Diego Freeway with a phalanx of police cars following him. I happened to be in the middle of that moment. Well, not quite in the middle, maybe the periphery. But I was closer than most.

I was 23 years old, and while I was taking 16 units of classes at UCLA, I worked four part-time jobs, as well - an assistant to both a screenwriter and a member of a famous 1960s band, some busy work for my friend's mom in promotional sales, and a pizza delivery job. The pizza job, for San Gennaro restaurant in Brentwood, was the most profitable of them, but it had its drawbacks - driving through traffic was always an adventure for me, and my Chevy Cavalier had a smell of garlic to it that was always a chore to get rid of.

On June 17th, I was on shift at the restaurant, which was just off of Sunset Boulevard, and a couple of miles away from the freeway. I was feeling like it was going to be a busy night because the NBA championship was happening (Knicks-Rockets), and any time there is a major sporting event, there are lots of pizzas delivered.

The O.J. chase made it a difficult chore. Los Angeles is a strange town - it worships the villains more than any other town in America. I know that this could lead into another rant on Kobe Bryant (the crowd at Staples Center giving him a standing ovation every time he'd fly in for a game during his rape trial in Colorado), but I will choose another parallel - remember in Independence Day, when the aliens were landing before they would attack? Which town was the least concerned, the most open to the event? L.A., baby. Yes, it's only a movie, but face it, this is a weird town.

Anyway, as O.J. was in his slow speed chase, a parade of onlookers turned out around the overpass at Sunset, cheering him on, holding "Go, O.J., Go" signs. As I stood in front of the restaurant, several news helicopters were overhead. I could hear the "Ride of Valkyries" song by Wagner playing in my head, used so well in the film Apocalypse Now. Every delivery was a chore, and several of them had people watching the telecast as I got to their houses - some totally focused on the surreal chase, some pissed off because NBC, the network covering the basketball game, decided to make the majority of their coverage the chase, putting the game into a small corner of the screen.

As day turned into night, and O.J. made it to his home where an hours-long standoff would take place, the restaurant got a call for a delivery. The NBC news truck that was sitting outside of O.J.'s house wanted a pizza. There were two delivery people at that time, and I conveniently made sure that I wasn't the one delivering that pizza. The other guy, a Mediterranean fellow who had been delivering for years, took the call. In the short term, I was happy - I was able to get four deliveries in by the time he got back, without even being able to deliver the pizza. In the long term, I don't know. In a weird way, if I had gotten lucky enough to sneak past the mess, I could've been a part of the bizarre history of Los Angeles. Of course, I could've been shot, too.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Peace Offering to the Enemy

Now that USC football has gotten its just desserts, getting suspended for two years from bowl games and losing 30 scholarships for its illegal recruiting methods, I don't want to come off as gloating. Yes, it is true that I am an alumnus of UCLA, the Trojans' arch rival, but I do have many friends from that institution of "learning". So, just to show some sympathy, I have come up with a list of things that USC fans can do while missing out on bowl games.

Catch Up On Your Reading. I know that reading is not popular amongst USC students, usually responding to the suggestion of such with a grunt and "What? Me no read!" But there are several exciting things to peruse (that means, "read"), such as this.

Go Sightseeing. Here's an idea, go see Reggie Bush's parents house in San Diego! Or maybe stop at Morongo Casino, home of the Tim Floyd girl fight! Or, here's an idea. Why not see lovely Seattle, Washington? Pete Carroll seems to think it's quite lovely, a place to maybe settle down and start a new career. I'm sure that's the reason Carroll left, the lovely scenery.

Help the Children. Since there's no point in investing in the current batch of USC players, maybe you need to think ahead. Way ahead. Maybe start watching Pop Warner football. You can work on your booster skills by buying the more talented kids juice boxes. Just to keep in shape.

Rent A Movie. Solid, life-affirming films. Like The Program. Or Blue Chips. Or you could watch the 2004 Championship Video, since that's going to be the only artifact left over of them winning.

Become a Fan of Another Team. People in Los Angeles bandwagon all the time. It's in their nature. If the Clippers get Lebron, for example, and Kobe gets hurt or retires, couldn't you see thousands of Clipper flags on cars in this town? So you won't lose any credibility. Just say, "Oh, I've been a fan of theirs for a long time," or, "My sister goes to that school." If Chris Rock can say he's a Knicks and Lakers fan, then you can have two college football teams. Don't worry, I'm not expecting you to come over to UCLA. Here's an idea - how about the other USC, University of South Carolina? They have Spurrier, you won't have to remove the bumper sticker off of your car...just a possibility.

Work Out. Take the time to exercise. I hear former USC linebacker Brian Cushing has a great program.

Work on Fixing South Central LA. Come on, shouldn't it make sense that a university that costs so much to attend should be located in a place with some kind of a nice view? Take a moment to be noble. Plant some trees. Work with the community. Work on building up the area around with you. Start with that shithole of a stadium.

This is just a start. Look at it this way - you have a chance for emotional, spiritual and intellectual growth here. Instead of focusing only on football, you could actually work at becoming a better person. Now there's an idea - an evolved USC football fan. Never thought I'd see the day.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Ten Songs I've Liked in the Last Couple of Years (That You May Not Know)

A lot of people think I listen to weird music. That's fine, because I think there are a lot of people who listen to lame music. It all evens out. I used to be really harsh on people's taste, but I've softened (really, I have - I know some of you may think that's not true, but I used to be a dick about it). Now, I usually will let people have their thing, as long as they don't force me to listen to it (unless it's Justin Bieber. I'll never understand that one. It's like school play shit).

I wouldn't force people to listen to stuff, either. I will, however, do things like this just to get people aware of some great music out there. You won't like every song. You might not like any song, but odds are you'll find one song you may like. It's worth a try, right? And with all that being said, I wouldn't be surprised if this list ends up looking like a Pitchfork best-of list. This may be them without all of the pretentious essaying.

Real Estate, "Beach Comber". Beach music by way of New Jersey. Mellow, catchy, shambling. They don't have a video for this song, so here's one of those You Tube "Still Photo with Song" clips.

Titus Andronicus, "A More Perfect Union". Another one from New Jersey. Because there needed to be an album based on the Civil War that loosely quotes Springsteen and talks about minor league baseball. The original song is seven minutes-plus; this video is half that. I prefer the full song, but the lead singer looks like he's eaten human flesh at some point. So he's got that going for him. Which is nice.

The xx, "Infinity". This song could so be in a Michael Mann movie. Just really cool, sexy. The whole song is here, but if you want to watch a cheesy video someone did independently (with a shorter, lesser version of the song), here it is. God bless young people with a dream and a video camera.

The Pains of Being Pure at Heart, "This Love Is Fucking Right". I have no clue what the line "You're my sister, and this love is fucking right" fully means (at least I think that's what they're saying, and I'm not going to look, because I don't want it to change), but another catchy, fuzzy song. And what's the deal with all of these bands not having videos for these songs? Another You Tube Still Clip special.

The Walkmen, "On the Water". I wanted this on the list (and thus made this list the last couple of years instead of year), because the video kicks ass. Circle of life shit (and I know my last two blog posts have had animals dying. Swear to God, I am not into hunting. I'm not militant PETA, either, but I love animals). Haunting song, just has a drunken, moody quality. I like a drunken, moody quality. In my women.

St. Vincent, "Actor Out of Work". My friend, Frank, says that a lot of times I just like certain songs because the singer is a "foxy, folksy chick". He also said a couple of things about the fact that I'm aging and my tastes are following suit, but that's okay. Annie here is a foxy chick. The song doesn't have the balls that some of my older stuff may have had. I still like it. And the video is amusing. So there.

Girls, "Lust For Life". Two guys named Girls that seem pansexual and have videos that come from the indie wing of Abercrombie and Fitch, but they make catchy, hiccup-filled guitar jams, and sexuality has nothing to do with it. Or everything to do with it. One or the other. Here's the clean video (let me say, the "dirty" video is NSFW and not safe for anyone who is uncomfortable with nudity on either side. You have to find that yourself, if you choose).

The Morning Benders, "Excuses". If you liked the Real Estate song, you'll like this one - a little more sweeping, bigger, I guess. Still catchy. Another still with song here.

Neko Case, "People Got A Lotta Nerve". Before Frank accuses me again, I'll leave it to the first comment on the You Tube page for this video. "My God her voice! I think I'm in love!"

eels, "Little Bird". We've all been on the porch, guys, missing that girl. So, here's another guy doing the same thing. Heartbreak sucks (but it works well in music, and it's heartfelt here).

Monday, May 31, 2010

new yeller

It seems to be that one of the most tired ideas in cinema is the Talking Animal Movie. You would think that they would've run this idea to the ground, but, sure enough, here comes Marmaduke. I would link the trailer here, but I wouldn't wish that abortion of a film on anyone. I'm hoping that the Fred Bassett film would be more representative of the fine work that appears in the daily comics, but I merely dare to dream.

So, with the combination of all of these Talking Animal Movies and the fact that most film executives don't have an original idea in their head, I'm led to ask, "Why haven't they made a Talking Animal version of the movie Old Yeller?" I mean, nobody forgets Old Yeller. No one. Just get an interesting actor to do the voice of the faithful hound, maybe put Justin Bieber as the boy, and you've got a $100 million dollar movie.

Now, since I'd want it to have an edge, I'd want either Al Pacino or Christopher Walken as the dog's voice. Go all out. Dare to go PG-13 with the film. Couldn't you see the ending, when O.Y. got attacked by the wolf and got rabies, and the boy has a fateful choice?

BOY: How you doing, Old Boy?

O.Y.: I'm bad, man, I'm bad. When the poison gets in you, it''s hard, man. I think you're gonna have to take me out.

BOY: I can't.

O.Y.: You have to! I'm losing it, Kenny!

BOY: My name is Travis.

O.Y.: See what I'm telling you? I'm bad! I'm crazy! I'm seeing things, man, bad things. I want...I want, blood.

BOY: Don't talk that way.

O.Y.: Get your gun, Travis.

(Travis gets his gun. He points at Old Yeller, but he's hesitant.)

BOY: I...I can't.

O.Y.: You have to, do it. Do it for me.

BOY: Can't we find a doctor, make you better?

O.Y.: Shoot me, I'm a raving lunatic! Shoot me!

(Travis' hand is shaking.)


(Travis shuts his eyes. Sound of a gun shot, fade to black).


I give it two years before that film gets made. Either that, or Fred Bassett. Maybe Marmaduke 2: Canine Boogaloo.

Monday, May 24, 2010's how you make it long!

Hi, kids, it's been over a year since I've published a blog. Considering I have a little more free time, and that this story merited one, I'm going to try doing it again. Or not. At least I'll do this one, and if people like it maybe it'll give me the impetus. You know that whole thing, applause is my food, or some B.S. like that.

It's been about two-and-a-half months since I got let go from the monolithic studio where I worked. While I have enjoyed the time off immensely (going to Paris, writing a little, working out a lot), I am aware that my fun time will eventually need to end.

It's because of this that I am grateful that so many of my friends have been looking out for me, checking in on my well-being, mentioning job opportunities for me, making sure I haven't lost all of my money playing cards (it's been a roller coaster, but I am slightly up, I believe - thank you), etc. Two of my friends mentioned to me that there was a job at a pharmaceutical company where they may need a creative manager, and I agreed to talk to them.

Now, I never saw myself working in the pharmaceutical industry. I just went through an "employment strategy" seminar where there were a lot of pharmaceutical people there, and I have to say I didn't see a direct connection with them. One woman was particularly frustrating, needing continued explanation on every topic, her "fifty-yard looks" (her beauty was best seen from fifty yards away; any closer and you've got issues) I found were slightly off-putting, and her general faux-enthusiasm is something I never have cared for. I'm not putting the whole industry into one bucket, but let's say that I wasn't left impressed.

I showed up at my friends' agency dressed in shirt, tie and slacks, only to see the interviewer dressed in a T-shirt and cargo shorts. I realized I may have overdressed for the moment, but that's okay - it's always better to be safe. I had brought a portfolio of my previous work; had a practice interview I did with the seminar people, seeing I hadn't interviewed for a job in ten years; and I was in good spirits and had an open mind. Whether or not I was taking this job, it wasn't going to be because they didn't like me.

Anyway, I realized pretty early on that this wasn't going to be like any job I've done before. I was being asked to help market a pill that, well, let's be blunt, was made to increase the girth of your penis. I have worked on racy material before - still proud of my tagline for the film Zombie Strippers, "They'll dance for a fee, but devour you for free" (let's say that I had stronger lines that the MPAA wouldn't allow) - but this was taking it to a new level.

After having about a ten-minute meeting, I agreed to meet with the rest of the management team at their office next week. In order to prepare for the visit, I started writing some radio script copy and some slogans for the product. It almost makes me sad to say that this might be some of the best copy I've ever written. I felt like I hit a gold mine. A saying I use quite often is "Puns are your best entertainment value." While, admittedly, I don't believe it 100 percent, I have to say that a good pun can be valuable in ad copy.

Avoiding the full scripts I wrote, here are a few of the lines I wrote for the project:

"So long" doesn't have to mean goodbye.

Show them how you've grown as a man.

Turn "smaller and quicker" into "stronger and thicker".

Turn wee-wee into "Oui, Oui". (I saw that one for the French-Canadian market)

The results you require. The pleasure she desires.

The bigger you are, the harder she'll come.

Now, I have to admit, I doubt the last one would make it through any kind of censor, so I changed "come" to "fall", but let's just say that I was only beginning.

I went out to their office the next week, into a part of North Hollywood that I never had been to before. I sensed I was near where a lot of low-budget pornography was being filmed. The office was in one of those combination business parks/warehouses that reminded me of the film Punch Drunk Love - no interior decorator here. I was hoping for a potential Luis Guzman sighting, but no luck. As I was led into a conference room there was a plastic cup sitting on the table that seemed to have a combination of wheatgrass and industrial fuel. It was promptly thrown away for my benefit.

There I was, sitting in a room with three men - the one I previously met, wearing a UFC cap and muscle shirt; a young kid (maybe 25, at most), who was the marketing manager; and a dark-haired man who I sensed handled the money and was looking at me like I was a hippie freak, maybe saying afterwards, "I hate those artsy-fartsy types". I spent the next 20 minutes talking about, well, penis pills, only being interrupted by a young kid there to ship boxes of the pills and to say that he had an audition for the show "Leverage". I was told that they loved my copy, but that they needed one that was even racier. I was trying to figure out where in the hell this would air as they were saying, "we need you to focus on the words 'girth' and 'width'", as I was taking notes in my old-school notebook, realizing that at the studio I never had to write "girth" in the entire time I was there.

When money was discussed, I realized that I should only look at this moment for the experience and for the absurdity of it all, not as a dramatic change to my career or a financial windfall. In fact, for a moment, I had one of those sad "this is what my life has come to" feelings, but then I didn't take it too seriously and appreciated it for what it was - a potential paying gig that would give me a potential anecdote in the future. I've had jobs that have given me less.