Sunday Night at the Cemetery

Foreword by Stan Lerner: I’ve heard people are dying to get into this place. Thanks for checking it out Sumner!

It took a while to convince her that relics of the underworld would not haunt her for the next week, but my girlfriend finally agreed to accompany me to a Sunday night movie showing at Hollywood Forever Cemetery.  The idea had come up more than a few times once summer arrived and the days got longer, but at no point did she show any signs of relenting, instead insisting, especially since the defection of her roommate to San Francisco three weeks ago, that three hours of lying between the headstones of Los Angeles’ most prominent luminaries would send her into a deep, dark, schizophrenic abyss.

Luckily I don’t succumb easily to girlie hyperbole, so I lobbied for last weekend’s showing of “Dazed and Confused” as much as possible and even managed to excite her a bit about the adventure.  We asked a few friends that had already seen screenings there what to expect, and they provided rave reviews as well as a fairly detailed recommended packing list: blankets, sweaters/sweatshirts, lawn chairs, $10 per person for entrance, food, coolers and however much booze we desired.  For such a morbid setting, it certainly seemed as though the event coordinators knew how to lighten up the mood.

We got to the corner of Santa Monica and Gower at 6:30 – an unheard-of thirty minutes before the gates opened – and found a line of pedestrians curled around the block with an auto queue just as long. Continue reading

PONTYPOOL — GOOD!

It takes quite a bit for a film to really drive my intellect and have me so engrossed philosophically that I tune out everything and everyone around me, but that’s exactly what PONTYPOOL does.  An extremely fascinating story that is not only intriguing, immersive and intelligent, but psychologically conceptualized exhilaration with a wicked wryness and socio-political commentary, PONTYPOOL, and particularly the performance of Stephen McHattie, is controlled frenetic gold.

With a Don Imus-like appearance and rapid-fire opinionated persona, one time big city radio shock jock, Grant Mazzy has now been relegated to a small town talk radio news station, “The Beacon”, CLSY – 660 on your radio dial, out in the Canadian back forty. Continue reading

Nancy Pelosi Might Have Lied About Torture – Get Over It!

A friend and I were having lunch the other day when the topic of our most recently discredited politician joined us in conversation. I suggested – and still believe – that President Obama will marginalize the issue of whether House Speaker Nancy Pelosi knew the CIA was using techniques labeled “enhanced interrogation.” Digging through past events will benefit neither his administration nor the Democratic Congress, and he has controversy in the present that requires his attention. My friend took my point, but to it added his circumspect two-cents:

“It is a grave mischance for the individual that indentifies in his opponent 20 flaws, 19 of which are true, for though they will have shown their opponent to be deeply flawed; to an audience, accuser and accused will appear on equal terms.” (It is possible that given a period of interlude this quote waxed eloquent in my memory. Still, it must be noted that only one of us treated the issue of Nancy Pelosi and her dalliances with untruth with proper distance that afternoon. I shall have to invite my friend to lunch again and thank him.)

For those readers unclear on the details, the AP provides a useful timeline of events concerning Pelosi, the CIA, and the memos in between (it can be found here). The debate has centered on whether Pelosi, in her position on the House Intelligence Committee, was briefed on the CIA’s use of methods now considered to be torture. If she was, she lied this year in April when she stated “we were not — I repeat, were not — told that waterboarding or any of these other enhanced interrogation methods were used.” The CIA, in what can only be interpreted as a half-hearted response to her statement, released documents that show they did brief Pelosi, or a member of her staff, on those methods – maybe. Continue reading

LA Marathon

Sweaty and disoriented, I go to grab some water. My legs ache, my vision is blurry and I’m out of breath.  I adjust my shorts, grab a quick stretch and walk for a bit… to the fridge for some orange juice.

I wake up about the same time most elite entrants are nearing the finish line. I feel a little embarrassed as I told one Stan Lerner that I would meet him to watch as runners come in. Sorry, Stan. I will not be hi-fiving any sweaty strangers today. I could barely get out of bed this morning. No, I have not partied myself into a head-cold. I’ve actually taken it relatively easy this weekend. And yet, I feel sick and feverish.

Please, do not mistake me for another skeptic looking for excuses. I appreciate any showmanship of athleticism. Moreover, I’ve bared witness to what it takes to prepare for a marathon. And as many of us do, I’ve lived vicariously through someone better suited to tackle such feat, my girlfriend Nina. Continue reading

New Kid on the Block: D-Town Burger Bar

The first time I noticed a little Burger Bar had opened on 6th and Spring was a few weeks ago. It was around 2am, and I was still out from a night on the town. How sad, my friends said, pointing to empty countertops, and empty booths. Reminiscent of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, a lone fry cook and cashier in 50’s diner style uniforms stared out at dark sidewalks from behind brightly backlit glass windows.

We spoke too soon. Three minutes later, we again stumbled past the D-Town Burger Bar and—the place was full.

Local bars were starting to let out, and packs of drunk-hungry pedestrians were scouring the streets for something greasy to take the edge off their buzz. Smoke rose up from the grill, as the cook got to work on burgers and fries. Three men walked in to place their orders, I could hear Chuck Berry playing as the door swung open and closed.

I wasn’t able to join them that evening, but I was intrigued. And I’ll never judge them so harshly again, I swear. So I made a point this afternoon to revisit our new kid on the block, D-Town Burger Bar and make a proper appraisal.

When I entered, my eyes were greeted by a floor full of black and white penny tiles, shiny red plastic seats, and a busty roller girl waitress figurine standing proudly at the door. Everything was spotless, shiny, and ‘new car’ clean. There was even a nostalgic (digital) jukebox, with an unfortunate “do not touch” sign on it.

There were four meal options on the illuminated menu sign on the wall. Continue reading

Richard Sera, Now That’s a Way to Go

I finally did it. I swallowed my pride and returned to the LACMA after a falling out that produced this prodigal art viewer. I think too highly of myself and the LACMA and the director, and for that matter, Mr. Broad, continued their work, completely unaware of my absence. I, however, stewed in it, tapping my foot and withholding my money in a futile attempt to protest recent decisions.

It gets a little bit sticky, you see, so we will start at the beginning. The seed was planted at the Dia at Beacon in upstate New York. The trip away from the city was nice, necessary. The scenery was beautiful, the art collection immaculate. It was quiet and peaceful and, though the gallery was full, the experience felt very private. I rather enjoyed it, minus the beautiful, copious space devoted solely to Flavin’s fluorescent lights. His concept is solid, to paint a space with light, but his execution gets under my skin. It reads as tacky no matter how many retrospectives I go to. So, I’m in the Dia, trying every angle to see if I may just take a shine to Flavin after all. This director has put a lot of stock in him, i might give him a fighting chance. When you boil it down, countless light and space artists set after and achieved Flavin’s goal with much more grace, see James Turrell.

Fast forward to the present day scandal, Continue reading

The Hockey BeardPart 2

The Hockey Beard is a phenomenon I’d only just heard about.  It came up when some friends and I were ganging up on my roommate to try and convince him to shave his wretched beard that his girlfriend proclaims “smells like wet cheese.”

“I can’t shave now.” He declared, “It’s the playoffs.”

“What in god’s name are you talking about?” I asked.

“It’s the third round of the playoffs.  You know, hockey.  It’s a Hockey Beard now.”

“What?”

“You know, a Hockey Beard.  You’ve never heard of this?”

“Heard of what?”

“Oh, man!  You don’t know about the Hockey Beard?”

“What’s a Hockey Beard?”

He explained, “Every year at the beginning of the Stanley Cup Playoffs hardcore hockey fans start growing a beard until their team gets eliminated.  That’s why, at the Stanley Cup Finals, most of the crowd has beards.”

“I’ve never heard of this.  And besides all that, what does hockey have to do with you and your beard?  You’ve never watched a game of hockey in your life.”

“Not true,” he proclaimed, “this is a Hockey Beard and the Red Wings are still in it.  I can’t shave.”

“Bullocks,” I told him.  “You’ve been growing this beard for months now.  It has nothing to do with hockey.  Besides, you’ve never even been to Detroit.”

“Detroit?” he asked.  “Who’s talking about Detroit?  I’m just a fan of red wings.”  He laughed a drug addled laugh and took a sip of his beer.

I had seen through his façade easily enough, but he had sparked new questions in my brain.  I was now fixated on the Hockey Beard.  How long has this been going on?  Where did it originate?  Why hadn’t I heard about it until just now?  Is this somehow related to the phenomenon of the bad indie rock beard of this decade?  Are the hockey playoffs partly responsible for why hipsters everywhere are running around dressed like Tom Sawyer?  Perhaps this is the missing link I’ve been looking for.  Perhaps the Hockey Beard is the root of all my confusion as to why pop culture has been so generally rotten and foul for the last 9 years. Continue reading

San Francisco “Clean-Up” Tax

It seems there is nary an issue Californians will not legislate. And, as it turns out, there are other problems to be faced apart from the abysmal state of the economy. Cigarette butts have been dirtying the streets of San Francisco for years and, smokers be warned, Mayor Gavin Newsom has finally decided to put his foot down. To combat the problem, he has proposed a tax that he believes will work to ameliorate two cigarette related issues. The first is the mess. The tax, which current estimates place at 33 cents per box, would fund the city’s effort to clean-up cigarette butts from streets and public places. San Francisco spends around $44 million to clean the city’s litter every year.  Newsom says that officials have found cigarette butts comprise roughly a fourth of that litter. The money raised from the tax, which will be about $11 million per year, would therefore be used exclusively for addressing the product from which it is derived. And, as San Francisco, like the rest of California, is running a deficit, money for city beautification is not likely to been seen from any other place in the budget (alright – so economics is a factor, as well).

The second issue is an old motif, recited at every stage of a cigarette tax’s journey. It is in the interest of maintaining the health of Americans (and, of course, the health of their health insurance) that cigarettes are made costly, and thereby limited in their appeal. The logic runs Continue reading

MOVIE REVIEW: THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE–UGLY

Take heed readers and moviegoers.  Do not be deluded by the fact that this is a Steven Soderbergh film and should have a standard of “excellence” attached to it.  Do not be led down the primrose path and into the theater because porn star Sasha Gray is making her “legitimate” acting debut (down boys, down).  Although there are a few glimmers of interest and worthwhile technical aspects of the film, THE GIRLFRIEND EXPERIENCE is one experience that no one should be subjected to.

Continue reading

THE GOLDEN STATE SHINES AGAIN

Thankfully California voters made their will clear, as if it needed to be made clear, that the state’s government needs to come up with a solution to balancing its’ budget that does not involve borrowing money or raising taxes. Unfortunately, unlike the Governor, many politicians and big labor leaders have failed to embrace this mandate for real change. Instead came the age-old mantra that taxpayers can’t have it both ways. “If we can’t have more taxpayer money and debt, taxpayers can’t have schools, roads, health services, police, firefighters, AND NO MORE DESERT!” they say. Michael Hiltzik wrote, in yet another embarrassing LA Times’ cover story today, that it’s all a lie—in his bizarre mind Californians don’t pay enough taxes; and that part of his solution is to rethink Prop 13. Thanks LA Times—with great thinkers such as Mr. Hiltzik downtownster.com is sure to maintain its’ 100 percent monthly growth rate.

First, consider this to gain some perspective: the cuts that the LA Times refers to having to be made to avert “financial melt-down.” The “annihilating cuts” they call them, total all of 21.3 billion dollars. The politicians, labor union leaders, and LA Times reporters, and I use this term generously, all fail to mention that after this adjustment to the state’s budget California will still be spending more on services for its’ residents than it did in the year 2005. If you recall things were fine, maybe even better in 2005, so is this really such a calamity—OF COURSE NOT. Not when you consider that California increased its’ spending by 50 percent over the last five years—far outpacing inflation and population growth. So, with revenue down it’s time to cut back a bit—GOOD! Will 5,000 state jobs be eliminated? Yes! This is actually on the front page of the LA Times as if it were news worthy. THERE’S 34 MILLION PEOPLE IN THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA five thousand jobs lost represents .00014706 of the population of the state, it is of no statistical significance.

But enough of this foolishness. It is easily concluded that the people who make their money off of the taxpayer dollar have an insatiable appetite when doing so. It is not so easily understood why writers that work for the LA Times don’t bother to write about the budget in a historical perspective.

HOW ABOUT SOME REAL CHANGE? California needs to completely rethink how it educates its’ students. By law the state spends more than 40 percent of its annual budget to produce some of the worst students in the country. Continue reading