Christine and the Midnight Spirographs

I just realized that the title of this blog sounds like I’m writing about a band. I think that’s kind of funny. I’m actually writing about a woman I met in November 2008 who organizes an event called Midnight Spirographs, a small fundraiser held bi-monthly at the Far Bar in Little Tokyo that raises money for the Midnight Mission.
I met Christine Meinders when she contacted me to ask if she could feature some of my pen and ink illustrations that were hanging in Groundwork coffee shop in her show.

It sounded very cool, so I said yes. Christine printed some flyers, picked up the pieces, and it was a done deal. I attended the very charming alleyway Far Bar that Sunday and had a blast. Continue reading Christine and the Midnight Spirographs

Blankenship Cuban Ballet Extravaganza

I am having a lot of firsts lately. For someone who’s done many things in one lifetime, this is amusing to say the least. For instance, I went to my first Dodgers game over Memorial Day Weekend. I also adopted my first pet from the pound, a Chihuahua, two days ago. How I managed to miss something as basic as the all American baseball game experience and dog ownership my whole life, I’ll never know.

Anyways, when my friend told me she had two tickets to see the Cuban Ballet at Vibianas tonight, I thought…it figures. This was my first ballet.

You’ll have to excuse my lack of expertise in covering a ballet, but I’ll try to make up for it with charm and sarcasm. As usual.

I’d also never been inside of St. Vibianas Cathedral. Like Charlie Bucket dreaming about that golden ticket, I figured some day I’d be cool enough to get invited to something going on there. Continue reading Blankenship Cuban Ballet Extravaganza

My Travels with Stan & Co. – Part Two

As we exited g727 into the throng who were milling about the doors of the three nearly adjacent galleries, Stan and Ana passed out their handbills, prompting many short conversations. This slowed our entrance into the neighboring Infusion Gallery.

At each gallery, the three of us lit out on our own: Stan to talk to the host to see about leaving some of his handbills and to explore what mutual benefit their two businesses might have; Ana lingering on the images she liked; I doing the same.  At the back of the gallery, they were offering the infamous “Two-buck Chuck” (Trader Vic’s “Charles Shaw” wine) for $2 a glass.  For the first time in my life, I drank a glass.  A man beside the desktop-cum-bar addressed me thusly:

“I want to show you something,” he said, reaching into an artist’s wooden canvas carrier. Continue reading My Travels with Stan & Co. – Part Two

Ten Years of Dark Humor: A Retrospective of the First Decade of the New Century

We are approaching the half-way point of the last year of the decade.  Sort of.  Officially the last year of this decade is 2010.  That’s if you’re following the rules.  If you’re going by the book then the first year of this decade/century/millennium was not 2000, but 2001.  After all the Julian calendar didn’t start off with the year zero even though maybe it should have.

But who cares about what the officials say?  It was New Year’s Eve 1999 that was the closing of the 20th Century.  Limp Bizkit was at the top of their game.  The World Wrestling Federation had not yet been sued by the World Wildlife Foundation for the legal use of “WWF”.  The XFL was all up in your face.  Everything from snowboards to Cheetos was X-TREME!!!  Cellphones were annoying.  And everyone, or at least the media anyway, was terrified that all the computers in the world would think it was 1900 and the water would stop flowing through the pipes.

Now, nearly ten years later, we can look back on this bleak and confusing decade and still not have any idea what the hell just happened. Continue reading Ten Years of Dark Humor: A Retrospective of the First Decade of the New Century

Movie Review: UP — Good

Well, let’s just say it right now – UP IS THE BEST PICTURE OF THE YEAR.  Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, just hand over that Oscar gold now.

78 year old Carl Frederickson has always had his head in the clouds.  A balloon salesman for his adult life, since a small boy, he and his beloved wife and best friend, Ellie, have shared a magical life but always hoping to share one great adventure together; an adventure they dreamed of long ago when they were 8 years old; one inspired by their hero, explorer Charles Muntz (“Adventure is out there!”) – a trip to Paradise Falls buried deep in the heart of the Lost World in the jungles of South America. Continue reading Movie Review: UP — Good

Lakers Go Fourth to Victory

Game Five of the Western Conference Finals was a tight and entertaining contest up until the fourth quarter. There, the game grew disappointing and left me with a bad taste. That is saying a lot considering last night’s dinner, Panda Express.  

I am already anticipating Game Six and hope that it brings the series back to the nail-biting experience that was Games One through Three. Still, I will indulge with two points of analysis I believe sum up Game Five. Continue reading Lakers Go Fourth to Victory

Halting the Gay Marriage March: The California Supreme Court and Proposition 8

It has been a rough past few weeks for gays – especially those from California. First, their representative to the Miss USA Beauty Pageant, Miss California Carrie Prejean, disavowed her support of gay marriage on national television (introducing into the lexicon the weird term “opposite” marriage).  Immediately following her loss to Miss North Carolina, the media devoted days of coverage to a debate on gay marriage, which could have been advantageous for the gay community but for the contumelious politicking of Perez Hilton. And, more recently, the ostensibly gay Adam Lambert (from San Diego) was defeated in contest on American Idol. Mercifully, the agitation surrounding the singing competition’s denouement was more benign.

Of course, on the issue of gay marriage, the actions and statements of the world’s most glittery citizens are outshined by the decision released Tuesday, May 26, 2009, by the California State Supreme Court. In a 6-1 decision, the justices upheld Proposition 8, which made illegal homosexual marriage in the state of California. Gay activists sought to invalidate the new law by arguing it fundamentally altered “the governmental plan or framework of California.” It was agreed, even by some in favor of gay marriage, that the claim lacked merit. For this reason, it is likely the legal challenge to Proposition 8 is over (the only option left open to litigants is the U.S. Supreme Court). Still, the opportunity will be available for gay marriage advocates to reverse it through ballot initiative in a future election. And, if trends continue, they may only have to wait another couple of years.

The interim, meanwhile, provides a serviceable opportunity for both sides in the gay marriage dispute to consider their part in the broader context of history. Continue reading Halting the Gay Marriage March: The California Supreme Court and Proposition 8

My Travels with Stan & Co. – Part One

Foreword by Stan Lerner: part of the mission of downtownster is to bring a level of writing and information to our readers that they simply and unfortunately are not able to get elsewhere. Alec, is a second generation  great writer from the Silverman family, whom I can always count on to fulfill this part of our mission. So settle in and enjoy this two part post, I assure you it will teach you some things that you probably did not learn in college.

Three p.m.

I had completely forgotten the invite.  I was standing on the expanse of Carrara Marble, a stone quarried in Carrara, Italy that is known to have been revered by Michelangelo, which comprises the floor of the 10,000 square-foot Bottega Louie.  Between the marble, the highly-polished brass trim, the plate glass and cast-iron café tables there was no surface that didn’t bounce sound and the echo in the busy, twenty-foot high restaurant made it impossible to hear my editor on my cellular.       

“Please excuse me; I’m only catching an occasional word.  Let me step outside so I can hear you.”, I pleaded.

I made my way to the little marble landing that has brass railing on two sides, separating it from the barbaric-by-comparison, gummed-up sidewalk at the 7th Street entrance.

“There, much better….Now, what were you saying about Art Walk and the [sic] MusicUnion?  I read your article about MusicUnion”.

As Stan Lerner was answering my query, it came back to me.  At the Monday night wine tasting, where Mike Berger wowed us with a lineup of six merlots, we discussed ideas for articles (I want to know before I write them, if they’re going to be used) and Stan invited me to go on the Art Walk and to the party.  

“I don’t know what you’re doing right now but the Art Walk is tonight and MusicUnion is throwing an after-party at The Globe featuring a bunch of bands.  I’ve got a ticket for you if you want to go.  There’s going to be some of our writers at the party and my friend Ana is going to take the Art Walk with me”.  

Though no critic, I am certainly an aficionado of visual art of all kinds since adolescence.  Also, the opportunity to meet some of the writers I have been reading in Downtownster, sounded appealing, as well as a music scene I had no clue about.

Six-fifteen p.m.

Yet another charming and intelligent person within his milieu, Ana Markosyan came through the glass doors off the parking garage into the lobby of Stan’s building.  She had large, almond-shaped, deep brown eyes and thick, shoulder length, dark brown hair, a pretty mouth and a feminine jawline.  She was wearing casual, open-toed, two-inch heels.  They were scrutinized by Stan who suggested they might not be comfortable enough for a long walk.  She said she had another pair, in her purse “just in case”. Continue reading My Travels with Stan & Co. – Part One



Although it is finally my turn I feel no delight when, without even glancing up, the post office clerk yells out Next!  I understand that she has experienced a tiring day; maybe even a frustrating one but her strident summons dehumanizes me.  I feel as if my identity has been stripped away and I am now just another item being mechanically processed in numerical order.  Thats right; I have become just a number.  Take a ticket.  Next!

Turning a unique human being into an impersonal number can induce psychic disintegration.  This is why the Nazis, in their evil twisted genius, tattooed a number onto the arms of their concentration camp victims.  Though not in the same way, most militaries need to give new recruits identification numbers for organizational purposes, but to its great credit, the United States military places upon each soldiers uniform, his name not his number.

These reflections while waiting at the post office helped me understand in a deep, visceral way why God reacted so angrily when King David counted the people of Israel as described in the last chapter of the book of Samuel.  

“…and Davids heart troubled him after he had counted the people and he said to God, I have sinned greatly  in what I have done… 

(II Samuel 24:10)

Counting people, treating them as numbers, diminishes the uniqueness that makes each special.  This would explain Gods displeasure at King David diminishing the people of Israel by counting them.  But wait just one moment.How about these verses: Continue reading THOUGHT TOOLS

Helena Gullstrom and The Loft

and Shannon Logan

Foreword by Stan Lerner: when I received an email from Jennifer, that would be Helena’s publicist, I was impressed by what I saw—a picture of Helena. Being me, I called this Jennifer publicist and arranged to meet her and Helena at Helena’s loft wonderland. Jennifer turned out to be a nice counterpart to Helena and before I knew it there was another attractive publicist, more people / friends and drinks going on at Varnish. Helena was nice enough to drive me home, I was wounded from drinking and having a bad case of the flu, and although I was out of sorts I promised to send one of my best people to do a downtownster story as I had failed to do anything more than drink and jabber. Time whizzed along, but I did not forget about this incredible artist. Finally, I sent not one, but two of my best downtownsters to tell the story that I had promised to bring to our blog. It goes like this:

I am a lover of the natural world. Paradise to me is dozing off in a hammock after picking berries and walking my dog, surrounded by organic lines, fluid light filled spaces, and kinetic sculptures. When Shannon and I walked into Helena Gullstrom’s studio The Loft in the trendy Santa Fe apartment building on Main, it was a stark contrast to the natural paradise I found years ago in my backyard. Helena’s creative space was a strange, manmade world of angular shapes and industrial materials. An urban paradise.

But we were a little too early for a tour of paradise that day. Certainly too early for artists who were peacefully sleeping off Memorial Day Weekend, while waiting for two nosy bloggers to arrive. Our eager knocks on Helena’s door were met with silence. So we grabbed coffee and a slice of pie at Blu Café, and a few minutes later went back up the elevator for a second attack.

Helena answered the door this time. Light from large windows illuminated the dual-purpose space, which functions as both a hair salon and artist’s loft. Flaxen haired mannequins and mirrors on one end, sculpture and paintings on the other. Helena, even on the tail end of a nap, was full of contagious energy. Continue reading Helena Gullstrom and The Loft