Saturday, September 29, 2007

Friday, September 28, 2007


I couldn't leave Los Angeles, could I?

This morning, waiting to turn left from Larchmont on to 3rd Street, I saw this man, waiting to turn left from 3rd to Larchmont:

Now it's not that this great man's celebrity that impresses me. It's that he happens to be the best talk show sidekick of all time. Plus, the loss of his recent failed sitcom - Andy Barker P.I. - still makes me sad (and keeps me from deleting the short-lived show's six episodes from my DVR). As he waited for to make the left turn (after dutifully leaving room for a high-speed LAPD cruiser to pass by, westbound), he seemed content with his decision to leave Conan and pursue the elusive successful TV series. Despite the morning drizzle, his window was open.

He was driving a tan-and-black Mini-Cooper. How cool is that - a man of his proportions squeezing into a smallish car, merely because he likes its design and simplicity? No Range Rover or Hummer for Andy. He's got style.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Moving It Down

I was asked to put up a new post so people wouldn't have to look at that disgusting album cover. To push the offending image further down the page, I have chosen to post a series of unrelated photos that I think are funny and/or poignant. These images don't tell a story per se, unless you're talking about the story of the universe.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Sleds Will Carry Us Tonight

I got Strawberry Jam, the new Animal Collective album. I've listened to it pretty much constantly since Saturday and this is what I want to say about it:

There's a lot about Animal Collective that should make me want to stay away from them: the "communal" vibe, the oftentimes Floydian prog-duction, the sometimes screaming vocals, the fact that they're from fucking Baltimore, etc. But all of this is forgiven when you make an album as good as Strawberry Jam (albeit with a pretty disgusting cover), with its XTC Oranges and Lemons-era-like jauntiness, amusing lyrics, propulsive beats, and all-around catchy-in-a-Billy-Joel-way catchiness. Plus, I've never heard anything quite like them before. I enjoyed their earlier stuff but this album is all-over good and the song For Reverend Green just might be my favorite of the year. Go here to hear the title track. Leaf House is great too.

So my unpaid advertisement is over. Now let's recap the rest of the weekend: rain, Cheebo, poker, rain, Curb, pencil sharpeners.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

It's a Sign

Someone cut down a tree at the end of my block. Thus, when I look outside my window now, I have a year-long unobstructed view of this iconic landmark:

Friday, September 21, 2007

Photos Show No Tears

I need a new blog picture. It's been too long. I'll work on that.

I need a haircut. It's longer than the hair in the picture. I'll work on that too.

I need to eat some peaches. I have some at home. I almost forgot about them.

I like song #4. That's a melody you can build buildings with.

Here's a great article about band logos.... and musical logos in general.

Just for old time's sake, here's a story I wrote five years ago.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

My 10 Favorite Movies of All Time (with seven word justifications)

10. Miracle Mile (1988). Apocalypse. Love. Wilshire Blvd. Saxophone. World's end.

9. Citizen Kane (1941). Ambition. Cool camera angles. Bad decisions. Sled.

8. Untamed Heart (1993). Love by the river. The Mississippi River.

7. Henry Fool (1998). Three kinds of there (they're, their, there).

6. Los Angeles Plays Itself (2003). Documentary about movies. Buildings. Beauty. Pathos. Sleek.

5. She's Gotta Have It (1986). The first great indie film. Nola. Darling.

4. Vertigo (1958). Shivers down spine. Museum. Mission. Hair. Stalker.

3. The Big Lebowski (1998). This is our concern, dude. League game.

2. Pulp Fiction (1994). Never seen anything like it before. Sprite.

1. Boogie Nights (1997). Comedy and drama together, in every scene.

Monday, September 17, 2007


Today I have writer's block.

Friday, September 14, 2007

You Offer Infrared Instead Of Sun

At the Thai restaurant yesterday, my fortune cookie last night told me "You will make an important decision soon." That's the last thing I wanted to read. I've had enough with the important decisions. Can't I have some easy choices? Can't someone else resolve the countless approach-avoidance conflicts?

Not that I believe in fortune cookies.

Murray has a web presence.

This video reminds me of one of my moments of greatest disappointment. It was in the fall of 1990. My favorite band then (now my third favorite band) Prefab Sprout were finally touring in the U.S. During the 1980s, their cassettes and records were mainstays in my cars and bedrooms. But I never had that "live" connection to them because they never toured. Until 1990. And not only were they coming to America, they were coming to Minneapolis. They were playing in the tiny Fine Line Music Cafe, of all places. I could be three feet away from Paddy, two feet from Wendy. I still remember the date of the show: October 28, 1990.

My friend John and I bought tickets. The next day, for reasons still unexplained, they canceled the tour. As far as I know, they've never played in America. The bastards.

Anyway, watch the video. I love that song.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

The Women in My Family

It was during a well-populated social event six years ago. A few friends and I were talking about my extended family. One of my friends asked a question of my cousin and I:

"Why do the men in your family die so young?"

My cousin's response:

"Have you met the women in my family?"

Some laughed; some were offended. None of the women in my family were close enough to hear it.

Though it was one of the funniest statements ever uttered, my cousin (who is on the Egyptian side of my family - i.e., my father's side) and I both believed there was an element of truth to it. By 2001, both of our fathers were dead, as was another uncle and a cousin. Another cousin died three years later, and long ago, just prior to my birth, another uncle died. That's six male relatives, all dead before 60 and not a single female relative on that side of the family gone too young.

But were the women to blame? As a man in the family, I'll try to answer. (Women, you may respond in the comments section.)

The Egyptian side of our family is a matriarchy. My immediate (Swedish-Egyptian) family is also a matriarchy. Fathers were absent (deceased, at work, in Canada). Mothers were omnipresent - always home, always watching, always giving their opinions (which is not to say they were good communicators.) At extended family gatherings, women would congregate loudly in the kitchen and dining room, carrying the crown that making dinner earned them. Men would sit quietly in the living room, watching Cronkite on the evening news, cursing Israel (aloud) and their women (silently). In my family, on weekends with my Dad out of town or at work, we'd go to the mall. The females would shop while I'd kill time in record stores and book stores, collecting the mass of knowledge I hold today.

Then there were the smaller family outings during the Pennsylvania summers. A typical one would be: me, Mom, the sister, and my two male cousins are packed too tightly in a car with towels and a cooler. We are driving to Lake Nockamixon. A song from Bruce Springsteen's The River or Steely Dan's Gaucho is likely playing on classic rock WMMR. By the time we arrive at the swampy lake and its kid-crowded over-chlorinated accompanying pool, the five of us, through our bickering and its attendant silence, have established the hierarchy that will govern us for the rest of the humid afternoon, the hierarchy that will determine who stays by the towels when the others swim, who has to stand in line for the French fries while the others tan:

Top of hierarchy: Mother
Next: The sister
Then: The younger (male) cousin (i.e., the miracle child)
Then: Me
Bottom: The older (male) cousin

What can't be shown here is the great divide between spots two and three of the hierarchy. Between the sister and the miracle child there is an abyss of matronly ghosts (like that of the cousins' absent-for-the-summer mother) and female pop culture icons (e.g., Princess Di, the Mom from Eight is Enough, Laura from General Hospital, both Alice and Carol from the Brady Bunch... maybe even Marcia). What these absent women believed - what they would do in any given situation - held more sway with the women who were indeed present than what any man in the entire world would do, with the possible exceptions of Springsteen and the revered corpses of Sadat and Nasser.

But we were kids then. In 2001, my cousin and I were well into adulthood. Shouldn't we have gotten over our childhood/adolescent maternal angst? Well, here's a smattering of examples from the last ten years that support the thesis that perhaps the women in our family still annoy the hell out of the men:

(actually, before I list these examples, let me say that I am not bitter. What doesn't kill me, what only kills the others, makes me stronger. )

Ex. 1: A male family member (called MFM from now on) is involuntarily locked away somewhere. When it's time to send him a care package, a female family member (FFM) goes out of her way to ensure that fewer items are included in the package. She says "He only needs one book."

Ex. 2: At a Japanese steakhouse in the Inland Empire, MFM expresses an admirable interest to go to medical school. FFM, scoffing at the notion, actually encourages him not to become a doctor. She says "You should go into computers."

Ex. 3: At a wedding for one MFM, another MFM is scheduled to give a touching reading from a Dr. Seuss book. When it's his turn to take the stage - as clearly indicated in the schedule - FFM leaps from her seat and reads a fucking Rumi poem that wasn't pre-approved.

There are other examples that are only half-remembered by the principals (parking space debates, going to the wrong dentist, warnings about quicksand, wearing the wrong kind of shoes on the slippery rocks, selling your son's car, leaving him carless in Los Angeles, etc.) but let it be known that only the mere surface has been scratched here.

What's my underlying thesis? That the women have nagged the men to death or into an adulthood of angst? No, it's more complex than that, their influence more subtle. The track record of the adult relationships of the males in my generation has been spotty (restraining orders, divorces, celibacy). Sure, we have to take some responsibility ourselves but I think there's something from our past influencing the intimacy difficulties some of us have now. But, perhaps more than the omnipresence of our mothers' and sisters' collective hovering, there is the issue of the absence of our fathers. That's another topic for another post. I'll just say here that they - the fathers - could have done something about it.

I discuss this topic today because of the recent death of the strongest woman in the family - an aunt in Egypt who both physically and psychologically held sway over us in the New Jersey of my early youth. She's wasn't as young as the men when she died but it did come too soon, too tragically. Still, despite the odds against her (early widowhood, three children to feed, living in two nations, her role as the matriarch of the matriarchy), she lived way past the age that a comparable male in the family would.

A cynic would suggest that the fact that most of those men smoked and were overweight had something to do with their early deaths. (My cousin's likely response: Wouldn't you smoke and eat too much if you were them? And what's up with cooking everything with loads of butter and oil?) I like my theory better - it would be overreaching to call it a familial culture of methodical and metaphorical poisoning. It would be easier to call it a female revenge fantasy. Basic Instinct was once my sister's favorite movie. The Last Seduction is my (male) cousin's favorite. Watch them both and it all makes sense.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Leave behind the color blue

It occurs to me that I have never written a blog entry outdoors. Today, I rectify this. I'm sitting on the porch of my Hollywood bachelor pad. It is a perfect morning. Skinny, the neighborhood homeless cat (she really has 3 homes, on 3 porches) is circling my chair, occasionally digging her claws (lightly) into my jeans. She's happy that I'm keeping her company.

Is it wrong for a man to write so much about cats? I don't think so.

Wow, what a view I have. I see the historic Capitol Records building to the west and the Griffith Observatory to the north. Closer in my field of vision, the golden arches of McDonalds frame an actual functioning Sears store. There are many birds. There is the CNN building. I see satellite dishes on rooftops. I've never lived n elevation before. I like it.

Cats are wise and fascinating creatures. They're smarter than dogs and tougher than mice.

Tomorrow is my birthday. I no longer fear the aging that each year brings. It's all the same to me. The life just runs together, as it should.

Tonight, the new Curb Your Enthusiasm season starts. It's been too long since the last one ended. I was living in Santa Monica then. There were weekly appointments and quiches and Saturday bagels. As with many places in my life, we don't live there anymore.

I wish Laurel and Stephanie a safe and happy ride across the desert and the plains. When they reach southeastern Minnesota, let's hope there's still a little bit of the good weather left.

Speaking of the early '00s, Mark Eitzel's The Invisible Man is nearly perfect. I could listen to its Pro Tools brilliance over and over again. So many great moments and insightful lyrics: "bitterness poisons the soul" ... "I don't know if I will ever love again" ... "You were not wrong to give me all your clothes" and more here.

I think the script is almost done. For the first time, I'm seeing all the way through it. And I like what I see.

Thursday, September 06, 2007

I Like To Look At The Vernacular Art

First, a picture of a streetwise little kitten living across the street from the Watts Towers in Los Angeles. Photo taken on Labor Day by ______. This scruffy little creature's home's front yard is strewn with flattened cardboard boxes. He/she looks like Seymour did when he was a skinny little kitten.

Tonight, old things make a reappearance in my living room. New ways of organizing arise and uplift. Tomorrow, it is the day before the weekend before the day, the week before the show, the calm before the change in weather.

I like blueberry pancakes and the color green. I like black, orange, and blue. I'm full of frozen yogurt from the Student Union. Trumpets. Vertical blinds. Collisions between jaywalkers and speeding bicyclists. Football players signing autographs for men in the shadows with glossy posters and Sharpies. Just another manic Thursday. It's the first day. Of the rest of my/your life.

A mysterious commenter has left me elusive comments. Who is s/he?

I remember, in 1998, standing on the rooftop of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis, having just seen a Hal Hartley screening with my friend John. There, I saw two students at the university who had been students in a class I was a T.A. in. We talked about the movie, the rooftop, and the beauty of a city on a summer night. I had a crush on the one student and didn't really notice the other. Later, the crush recipient was forgotten (moved away, self-important). Then I saw the other one tattooed and riding a bicycle really fast down Nicollet Avenue, listening to music on a Walkman, on her way, seemingly, to the apocalypse. Later, I tutored her in advanced statistics as I waited to get married to someone else. Last I heard, she had her second baby. I hope she's doing well.

No, she's not the commenter. She wouldn't know my first cat's name. Just a story to tell.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

It's A Ritual

I only have five days left (incl. today) at my current age. Then, it's another year, trudged up the memory tree.

I'm thinking about writing about the weather here but really what is there to say? It was hot, now it's not.

On my list of favorite vegetables, celery would not be found.

It's an odd little work life I have here. A woman who was a bridesmaid at my (failed) wedding works one floor above me, 2000 miles from where I knew her last. A man who had a cameo in a seminal early 90s movie about L.A. gang life works in the office next to mine. A girl with my (relatively rare) mother's name mans the front desk. A 130-piece marching band practices in the field outside my window. To stay up to date and relevant, they just added the Doobie Brothers' China Grove to their repertoire.

I heard a radio commercial today that blew my mind. It was an ad for the L.A. County fair. A decision was apparently made to wed the Fair's agricultural elements with the gritty streetwise reality of Los Angeles. To the tune of "Old McDonald had a farm, E I E I O," a hip-hop inflected vocalist sings "L.A. County has a fair, E I E I YO." It's beautiful.