AND THE WINNER IS…

for awards shows, competitions, dubious achievements, etc.

Hard To Be The Bard

Dedicated to writers everywhere. The novelists, essayists, poets, journalists, authors, diarists, historians, lyricists… and the most noble of all the scribes: bloggers! We do it, even when it’s hard, because there’s a bit of the Bard in each of us.

Something Rotten is one of the hottest tickets on Broadway this season, nominated for 10 Tony Awards including Best Musical. And Christian Borle, who plays The Bard, won the Tony for Best Featured Actor. Enjoy his performance of “It’s Hard to be The Bard”.

If you’re in a part of the world where that YouTube video isn’t available, head over to Broadway.com to find it there.

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Part Three of an untitled unnumbered part series.

Last week, my friend Rebecca learned she has a golfball-size mass of cervical cancer. She has responded to this change of plans with her trademark spunk, pluck and verve. And she’s blogging the experience. You don’t have to know R, or have cancer, or a cervix… to be inspired by her courageous spirit and funny-as-hell take on the absurdities of a life-threatening diagnosis. She has named her cancer Ricardo. And he is toast.

squirrelstakingovertheworld

It’s been one week. One Whole week since Dr. Skinny Indian Lady diagnosed me with the C word. The Canc. The thing that we all now know as Ricardo. It seems like it’s been a lifetime, it seems like Ricardo and I have been on vacations together. Fought about what to make for dinner. Which pair of shorts would look better with this Hawaiian shirt Ricardo? DO NOT WEAR THOSE SANDALS IN PUBLIC RICARDO. That’s how long it feels, like Ricardo and I are in a full blown dysfunctional relationship. BUT it’s only been a week, which goes to show you how long this road to remission is really gonna be. Anyway onto one subject I must address before I enter into the realm of cancer related topics.

Barry Manilow is gay? This has just shattered all of my dreams of a heterosexual relationship with him. I thought MANDY was…

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No Fucks Left To Give

Just before President Obama delivered his State of the Union address to Congress last week, the official White House Twitter account sent this eat-my-shorts (tan suit*) reference:

DailyBanter.ZeroFucks

Chez Pazienza at The Daily Banter penned a brilliant reading of the President’s thought bubble, which I encourage you to enjoy:

The White House Just Trolled Everyone, Proving Obama Has No F*cks Left To Give

* If you missed last summer’s TanSuitGate then (1) ignorance is bliss and (2) find out more here.

Best! Week! Ever!

Last Thursday afternoon, my friend Kim had just arrived for a visit with me and the dogs. I went out to let her in from the guest parking area, and as we returned to my apartment we could smell what we thought was incense. Within minutes, I was calling 911. We grabbed the dogs and ran through a hallway filled with dense black smoke to safety. The whole episode was swift and terrifying. But we were fortunate; no one was hurt, or worse.

Several apartments were destroyed in the fire, which started in the unit adjacent to ours. The fire burned up, but the smoke filled our place, coating every square inch of everything with acrid soot. Walls, floors, furniture, clothes, rugs, art, electronics… the smoke found its way into closed closets and drawers. But again, we’re fortunate to have insurance that will cover the restoration or replacement of these things.

hornplaza.fire

We stayed with friends for a few days over the weekend. Their upstairs neighbor just happened to be spending this week with family in Boston, so here we are, taking care of her chocolate lab, Luna. Our dogs Charlie, Bernardo and Tiger are rolling with it – but I know they are wondering, What the hell is going on here?!

That same thought has crossed my mind once or twice in the last few days. But we managed to find an apartment to sublet for October and half of November, just a few blocks from our smoked-out mess of a home. And hoping that will be enough time to get it all shipshape. There have been a few other mini-dramas along the way, but I am too tired to conjure them for you tonight. Perhaps another time, when I can see more of the humor in it all.

Today was kind of funny, though. I was scheduled for a colonoscopy and was tempted to cancel, but the prospect of being zonked out on high-grade anesthesia was too good to pass up. I asked them if they could wake me in November.

Some wisdom I earned this week that I can now pass along to you:

1. If you smell smoke, get out. If Kim and I had waited even one more minute, it might have been too late.

2. Things are just things. We all know this. When we are reminded, it can be an oddly comforting lesson.

3. If you are old enough to be needing a routine colonoscopy, stop worrying about it. I would rather have ten colonoscopies than one teeth cleaning. You do the ‘cleanse’ the night before by drinking a month’s supply of laxatives mixed in a gallon of fruit juice. Catch up on your favorite Netflix series and be prepared to hit the pause button. Frequently. The next morning you go into the hospital, lots of very kind people fuss over you, and the next thing you know you’re waking up and being given some cookies and apple juice. It’s over. And then you can pig out on lunch – you’ve earned it.

Best week ever? Hardly. But the thing I was dreading wasn’t so bad after all. And the dreadful thing could have been far worse.

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You are awesome

Sharing this post from blogger Steve Morris, an English chap. We don’t always see eye-to-eye politically, but I enjoy his blend of philosophy and science. Consider the implications of this post: every single person on this planet right now is the most successful offspring of the most successful lineages of the human species. Wow. If that includes the Republicans in America, imagine the ones who didn’t make the cut! I suppose you might also find it quite uplifting, as I did.

Blog Blogger Bloggest

supermanCongratulations on making it here. You’re a survivor. Not only did you survive childbirth, childhood and however many years you’ve lived since (an achievement that sadly most humans in history didn’t manage), but so did your parents, your grand-parents, and all your ancestors back to some single-celled organism swimming through ancient seas.

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Upward Facing Dog

This is just something I cannot resist sharing with you, sports fans. OK, so we all remember when I fell for that watch-what-happens-when-two-strangers-meet-and-kiss video that turned out to be a slick production for an ad campaign. (If you are the one earthling who missed that viral outbreak, click here.)

And it may well be that the following is yet more slickness. But I don’t care. It made my day and if you haven’t yet seen this then I hope it makes your day, too. So without any further ado, I give you Nic & Pancho!

 

Nic + Pancho have their own YouTube channel (with more yoga vids) here.

And Nic Bello (whom you may already have suspected of living in Los Angeles) can be found at nicbello.com

A Walk With The Mayor

My Boulder-based friends Anne Shutan and Scott MacInnis were in Bev Hills over the weekend visiting mama Jan and step-papa David – and celebrating David’s 75th. Because they live in Colorado, they do things like mountain biking and I suppose other mountainy things. So rising early on Monday morning for A Walk With The Mayor didn’t faze them one bit.

lilibosse

Lili Bosse

I had never done a walk with any mayor. When Annie invited me along, I thought it couldn’t hurt to start my mayoral meanderings in Beverly Hills. I secretly hoped they would do the walk in limos. Alas no…

The mayor of Beverly Hills is Lili Bosse. And that is pronounced exactly as you hope it would be. Bossy. Isn’t that perfect? The late, great Herb Caen of the San Francisco Chronicle used to feature Namephreaks in his daily column – people who are particularly or delightfully or ironically well-monikered for their careers (and/or crimes). Were we fortunate enough to live in a world that still counted Herb Caen among its columnists, I would already have submitted Mayor Bosse for his consideration.

Beverly_Hills_City_HallThe WWTM started, as one does, at city hall. Beverly Hills City Hall is a gorgeous Spanish Revival exclamation point of a tower, topped with a cupola and lots of gold leaf, that anchors a civic center complex of administrative offices, the BHPD, library and a new performing arts center. Here’s a fun fact I just unearthed over at Wikipedia:

For the Beverly Hills centennial in 2014, a 15,000-slice cake in the shape of the Beverly Hills City Hall was designed by chef Donald Wressell of the Guittard Chocolate Company and decorated by Rosselle and Marina Sousa. It cost US$200,000 to make.

So, you can see why it wasn’t entirely ridiculous for me to hope for a walk-by-limo.

BH.Walk.4ofusAs I approached the entrance plaza, I saw a crowd of people in identical bright orange t-shirts and hats. Hmmm. I didn’t get that memo. I went smart-casual with dark plaid shorts and a raw silk black Hawaiian shirt. I soon found Annie & Scott and was relieved to see that they were not in orange. They were in pink. I felt like a truffle in a big bowl of sorbet. Annie’s friend Valerie was also in black, but only because she is a serious filmmaker who had only stopped by to say hello. There was a hashtag printed on the orange-wear: #BHHEALTHYCITY and I found myself chatting with one of the citrus-hued enthusiasts. The Healthy City initiative is Mayor Bosse’s push to get her constituents in shape! Think Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! program – but with better shopping.

From what I witnessed on Monday morning, Mayor Bosse is everything you’d want your (crime-free, flush-with-cash) city’s mayor to be: 1/2 cheerleader, 1/2 civic booster, 1/2 high-fiver, 1/2 drill sergeant, 1/2 life coach. Yes, that is five halves, and you’d understand the equation if you met her. The name of the event is a little misleading, though, as it’s a bit more energetic than a mere walk. I would suggest calling it Power Walk With Da Mayor. And on an unseasonably hot morning such as yesterday… Death March With That Woman! would be truth-in-advertising.

WWTM.LittleSamoIt was blazing hot, even at 8:30am – with the added insult of unusual humidity due to the infernal monsoonal moisture churning up from Mexico. Remember what I was wearing? A black silk shirt. The only thing better than black at trapping body heat is… silk. I was screwed. Oh, and I left my water bottle in the car. Strike 3! If I had another kidney stone by the end of this walk, it would be my own damn fault.

After a brief aerobic warm-up (what?) and some very nice remarks where the Mayor introduced some local heroes (including my friend Anne Shutan the artist, and a little girl named Abby Spencer who is trying to raise $1 million for cancer via her Facebook page: Abby’s Million Dollar Dream), we were off! Fortunately someone was handing out notices about I-don’t-know-what-meeting printed on laminated, heavy card stock which came in handy as a fan. We marched down Little Santa Monica Blvd with a bike-cop escort stopping traffic at the intersections. When you Walk With The Mayor, you jaywalk with impunity! Though it would have been nice to have a little respite every few blocks… and I could feel the pure hatred radiating out from the stoppered commuters in waves of rage. That was kind of fun.

The roundtrip City Hall > Bev Hills High > City Hall is about 3 miles. When we got to BHHS, there was a table full of bottled water. At first, I thought it was a mirage. A few people grumbled about the environmental catastrophe of plastic bottles. I was too busy chugging down the life-restoring fluid to care WWTM.080414.BHHSabout ecological disaster at that point. Then, 200 people tried to get under the shade of an old magnolia tree while the Mayor introduced the BH Board of Ed. I had almost rehydrated by the time we were herded onto the wide steps of the high school for a ‘class picture’. (Did I mention that my dear friend Anne was Athlete of the Year in 1976 at BH High? She is overly talented, that one.) Scott and I hung in the back row, like street urchins, possibly making snarky comments about this person or that. It was hot. We were tired. He still wasn’t convinced that pink shorts were in keeping with his sense of masculinity. We took a selfie with the ‘twin towers’ of Century Plaza rising behind the school.

And then – though I didn’t hear the starting gun – we were back sur la route! Through the lovely, leafy residential streets south of Wilshire, and then up Beverly Drive through the heart of the retail zone that the world knows as “Rodeo Drive”. I found myself a new walk buddy, Tish (from the realm of Annie’s childhood) who turned out to be my prized human “beach rock” for the day, and is now my newest FB pal.

When we crossed Wilshire into America’s Most Posh retail nirvana, the weather suddenly changed. The temperature WWTM.Scott+Stevedropped about 20 degrees, which was fabulous but confusing. Then I understood: every shop along Beverly had its air-conditioning cranked up to meat-locker freezing, with their doors wide open to the sidewalk. People started peeling off from the parade to get lost in the extravagantly cool spaces. Annie, Scott and I found ourselves in a cavernous Pottery Barn. It felt like the lobby of one of those ice hotels in Finland. I admired the pillows and candles and leather arm chairs while my core temperature dipped back into double digits.

And then I bid adieu to my friends so they could do lunch and I could swim. It was a fun departure from my usual Monday morning routine, which rarely involves elected officials or hyperthermia. Thank you, Lili Bosse for a grand tour! I think I’ll be joining you again in October when Annie & Scott are back in town and you’re leading a walk to the Beverly Hilton where Annie’s sculpture Heart of Palm is on display as part of Beverly Hills’ centennial public art program. Until then, stay cool.

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Observe

As dusk fell yesterday, I set out for Griffith Observatory. Which is at the top of Griffith Park. Which was given to the city of Los Angeles by – who else? – Col. Griffith J. Griffith. And the appropriate response is Thank you! because this park and everything in it is spectacular.

The 4,300 acre park sits at the eastern end of the Santa Monica Mountains – better known as the Hollywood Hills – which run forty miles west and into the ocean past Malibu. This is a vast wilderness – more than 250 square miles – bisecting the city: LA to the south, “the Valley” to the north. Mulholland Drive twists and turns along the crest of the hills, all the way to ocean. Much of it is protected terrain, wild and rugged, especially west of Topanga with deep canyons accessible only on foot. The eastern portion is a bit more manicured, home to the “We don’t hike, dear” denizens of Brentwood, Bel Air, Beverly Hills. It’s not the Upper West Side, though. There are mountain lions and rattlesnakes, bears and coyotes. And as the environment becomes more stressed by the drought, trash cans and swimming pools increasingly look like convenience stores for the four-on-the-floor set.

The Observatory is only about five miles from home, so it took me more than an hour to get there. Sunset Blvd through Hollywood on a Saturday evening is not a speedway. And the turnoff on Vermont that leads up the slopes of the park also takes you past the fabled Greek Theater. There was a concert last night, which meant rather legendary traffic. Even when the Greek is dark, the one-lane road snaking up to the Observatory can be a slow crawl (as my friend Brian & I found on last weekend’s aborted attempt to get up there). Last night, though, I lucked out with a parking space just a 10-minute walk from the top.

Photo by hdwallpaperpc.com

Photo by hdwallpaperpc.com

While it’s a great place to go any time of day, any time of year, the Observatory is at full power as a tourist magnet on summer weekend nights. It is an awesome destination for kids and adults alike. The Observatory itself, all its exhibits and tours, are open until 10pm. It’s free! And as the sun sets, the city begins to glow, spreading out to the horizon.

Photo: usapics.net

Photo: usapics.net

Griffith Observatory is an Art Deco masterpiece. Built in 1935 (because we used to build things like this during economic downturns) and completely renovated in 2006. While it was designed and still functions as an astronomical observatory, most folks come up here for the views of Los Angeles and the surrounding mountains. The building sits on the edge of a promontory and obliges the looky-loos with multiple levels of wide terraces, and curving stairways leading up and up all the way to the flat roofs and the dome parapets.

There were hundreds of people at the Observatory last night, tourists and locals, including plenty of children. Not my usual scene. But what you notice is that there is a sort of hush, a reverence, the same as in a cathedral or museum. People talk in whispers – when they talk at all. No one has to say, “Look at that view!” because everyone is looking at that view. In every direction. From every location. It is spellbinding. And I spend as much time looking back at this magnificent edifice as I do at the surrounding world. (The next few pix are mine.)

GriffithDome.Dusk

And even a crappy quality photograph can take on a painterly aspect with the help of a filter or two. This is the sunset sky behind Griffith Park’s Mt Lee and its famous Hollywood sign.

Mt Lee Sunset

And here’s a shot I took on a wintry day a few years ago, from a trail below the Observatory. You can see this gleaming white structure from all over Los Angeles, and the closer you get to it, the better it gets.

Griffith.header1

To learn more about this remarkable place, visit their website http://griffithobs.org

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Trees

When I was very young the view from my bedroom window looked up to the massive tree in the front of our house. It was either a maple or a sycamore. The only reason I know that is that I remember the seeds – the kind that would helicopter down to the ground. You could try to catch them, but their flightpath was unpredictable. About the only thing they were good for (other than making new trees) was that you could split the fat end and stick it on your nose, like a rhino horn. I’m not sure why that was so amusing, but it was. At night the tree was illuminated by a nearby streetlight. The light and the movement of the branches and leaves made an endless kaleidoscope of images. It was quite a show. Especially during a storm. I can remember being frightened sometimes by scary faces that would appear in the leafy imagery… but they never lasted long. Mostly, it was a great way to fall asleep every night.

One day, some men came with chainsaws and they chopped down the tree… my tree. I don’t know why. Maybe it had grown too big. Maybe its roots were destroying the sidewalk. What I do know is that this was the first great sadness I can recall in my life. I mourned the loss of that tree. And I did it quietly, because I instinctively knew that this was not something that a little boy ought to moretreesbe doing. Mourning a tree? That sentiment would not have been greeted with understanding or sympathy. But it was the beginning of my lifelong affinity for trees. Do others share this? I don’t know. It’s not something that comes up in conversation very often. I do know that many people don’t give a fig about trees. Are they in the way? Cut ’em down! Blocking a view? Cut ’em down! I’d rather cut those people down.

Today I came across two remarkable videos having to do with trees. The first was shared by my friend Scott on Facebook. It is from a group called Cryptik Movement which is dedicated to enlightenment through public art. Their “About” page opens with this quote:

“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed.” -Albert Einstein

Remember that folks! The Smartest. Guy. Ever. says we need to keep a sense of wonder and awe. OK, so here’s the first tree video I want to share with you:

The Consciousness of Trees

 

If that reminded you of the movie Avatar, you’re not alone. (Or, maybe I’m not alone.) What I love about this is that it is grounded in science, yet crosses into the mystical or spiritual aspect of Nature.

The second tree video – from my friend M-R’s eponymous blog Margaret-Rose Stringer – is quite different. Yet so similar. The focus is on one remarkable man whose life has had one remarkable focus: planting a forest in a barren, environmentally threatened place. If you don’t have 16 minutes to watch this now, click on it and then watch it later. If you want to see a demonstration of hope in a hopeless place, watch it now.

Forest Man

Can one person change the world? Yes. So can one tree. Thanks to my friends for sharing these today. I haven’t thought about my childhood tree in a long time. I hope this post branches out to create some of the wonder and awe that Einstein spoke of. If you enjoyed it, leaf a comment. Just don’t bark at me for these terrible puns.

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The Night Crew

WARNING: This post is for Trekkies only!

If you are not a Trekkie, click here.

If you don’t know what a Trekkie is, click here.

Behold…

 

Congrats on the Emmy noms, Robot Chicken

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For Lovers of Books + Writing

Even if Leah and I had not been friends since the world was young, I would still want you to know about the amazing resource she has created with her writing partner, Caroline. The Mandala Writers Circle started a few years ago as a blog with book reviews and writing encouragements. They have just launched an ambitious and impressive – and gorgeous! – reimagining of the site. And everyone I’ve encountered here in WordPressVille would enjoy and profit from a visit to the new-and-improved Mandala Writers Circle. It can’t be described; you must experience it. So why are you still here? Go!

Here’s a screenshot of (and a clickable link to) the MWC Home page. Click around. Kick the tires. Click on the Blog link at the top to scroll through recent posts. I think you’re almost certain to find a review of a book you didn’t know you needed to read. Or an exploration of writing challenges and successes. Take a peak behind the curtain to see how these two do it, and others as well.

MWC.Home

 

mandalawriterscircle.com

 

It’s nice when someone else does all the work for your good and interesting blog post! 😉

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FIFA FO FUM

Yesterday, I watched the second half of the World Cup match between USA and Germany. And I realized that it was the first time in my life that I was watching soccer on television. Or off television, for that matter. Now, I’ve seen clips of highlights from big games over the years. I very likely even kicked around a soccer ball in grade school. But I’d never really focused on the game for an hour, paying attention to the players and the strategies and the progress of play. It was fascinating. And exciting! And in the end, the American team lost to the Germans – but they both advanced to the next round because they had better records than the other teams in their group blah blah blah it gets a little hazy from there…

FIFA, the international football league, holds a world championship called the World Cup. And that’s appropriate, since every nation on earth fields a team to compete. Every nation? I dunno. But certainly most. 204 teams began competing last year for the 32 tickets to play for glory in Brazil 2014. (USA is now through to the round of 16, which is remarkable, because no one gave them a snowball’s chance in hell of getting that far. Bravo.)

It got me thinking about American Football. Like FIFA, the NFL culminates its season each year in a ‘world championship’ called the Super Bowl. Of course, American Football is played in exactly ONE country on earth: America. (NFL likes to hold pre-season ‘exhibition’ games in places like London and South Korea… but it’s always two American teams playing each other in those “soccer” stadiums.)

Now, I know I will be branded a traitor or a communist or a terrorist or all of the above for saying this, but it became obvious to me as I watched soccer – world football – being played that American football would bore the rest of the planet to tears.

soccerclipartpicNo, it’s true. It really is. Soccer is pretty much 90 minutes of the sport actually being played: running, kicking, jumping, heading, shooting, missing, scoring… when there are fouls they are called and the free throw or kick is taken and the game just continues… there are almost no interruptions… substitutions just happen… the clock never stops. If something happens to delay play (like some idiot running on to the field), then a few minutes are added at the end. So they play and they play and they play and someone wins, or there is a tie. And that’s OK too. Can you imagine an NFL game ending in a tie? Americans don’t understand that. It is about whether you win or lose… not about how you played the game.

Imagine trying to explain American football to one of the 7 billion non-Americans on the planet. Giant mounds of flesh and bone are encased in military-grade gear and are paid millions of dollars to mostly run into each other. Occasionally a nimbler version will escape the mob and run part or all of the way down the field to score. Sometimes the guy who throws the ball will throw the ball, and sometimes the mound of flesh he throws it to will catch it. When that happens, he will almost instantly be buried under many mounds of opposing flesh. Progress is measured in yards or feet or inches. There are 100 different fouls which will cause whistles to be blown and little flags to be thrown. The clock get stopped and whenever anything happens.

Soccer’s two 45-minute periods take 90 minutes to complete.

American football’s four 15-minute periods can take three hours to complete. Not counting the multimedia halftime extravaganza. Very often, the last 10 seconds ‘on the clock’ can be stretched out to 15 minutes of delays and kicks and thisses and thats. And then the lawyers get involved.

Also – and this really must be said – soccer players all look like athletes, lean and toned and able to run around for 90 minutes almost without stopping. They wear shorts and cotton jerseys. No padding. No helmets. No face cages. No suits of armor. And it can get rough from time to time, but they all seem to know that they are there to move the ball down the field and score – not to commit televised manslaughter.

Oh, and there is no instant replay in soccer. Shit happens. Officials call it. Play continues. No tantrums. No crybabies.

I’m sorry, America. Maybe I’m biased. After all, I live in a city that has a professional soccer team – the LA Galaxy – but no NFL football team. And I’m OK with that. In fact, I’d rather see tax money spent on schools and roads and health care rather than on a glistening new stadium gifted to some billionaire team owner. I don’t even know where the Galaxy play. Just sayin’…

There you have it. If I got it all wrong about football – American or otherwise – please be sure to sack me (or flash a yellow card) in the comments. In the meantime, I’m rooting for Team USA in the World Cup. Maybe this soccer thing will catch on?

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