Sunday, April 29, 2007

Festival of Books

As promised I attended the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books today for the first time in many years. It's even bigger than I last remembered. The very first year it was mostly isolated in Dickson Plaza. With more exhibitors, though, the festival spread to more areas of the campus, including down at the bottom of Janss Steps.

I was only planning on being at the festival for half the day. I was going to walk around and if I managed to get into a panel I will stay a little longer. I wound up getting to the festival a little after 9am and stayed until 7:30pm when everything was being taken down.

I sat in on two panels today. The first one was a very entertaining discussion on Inland Empire Fiction moderated by Tod Goldberg. Gayle Brandeis, Michael Jaime-Becerra, and Susan Straight were the panelists. The panel was lighthearted, aided by the fact that all four appear to be good friends. There was a lot of banter but the panel maintained its focus. I'd question, however, the inclusion of El Monte as part of the Inland Empire. Not quite. The east San Gabriel Valley certainly has many of the qualities as the Inland Empire. For one thing, it's inland. However, most experts agree that the I.E. only goes as far west as Montclair.

After the panel I walked around for a bit. I got hungry and decided to visit my old lunch hangout as an undergrad: Panda Express inside Ackerman. Back in my day a Panda Bowl (or Bruin Bowl then) cost less than $4. Today it cost me just under $5.

There were still tickets available for the 2:30 discussion on Fiction: Taking on the World, so I decided to sit in on that one, too. It was a lot less fun than the IE discussion and decidedly more serious and earnest. The questions tended to be amorphous and enigmatic, with the words "politics," "identity," "Truth" being bandied about. Still, I found it interesting even though overly political statements tend to make me cringe. I doubt there were very many Bush fans in attendance, or if they were they probably walked out after Tony D'Souza called Bush the worst president ever. It's hard to argue with that statement, though. I got my copy of Whiteman autographed by D'Souza and I engaged him in a discussion on a murder case he was reporting on in Nicaragua involving an American who was convicted for murdering his ex-girlfriend even though he had a sufficient alibi. Quite a nice guy and clearly passionate about his writing and his beliefs. I wish I had a fraction of that intensity.

I killed an hour by reading and then lined up for a screening of Sarah Polley's Away From Her starring Julie Christie. Christie is quite good in the film, and it's a fine debut. The film suffers from being too sedate and meditative, though. Polley, being a young woman, also couldn't connect strongly enough with the plight of her older characters. She infused the characters with verve and life but the lived, shared life of these people just didn't translate. The film's pacing was too slow with Polley favoring too many dissolves as scene transitions. Polley displayed a lot of maturity in her first film, but perhaps it was just too mature.

For being out there all day my legs aren't too tired. I walked a lot. Being on campus also made me miss college badly. I looked at some of the students and wished I could be in their shoes except armed with the knowledge of life that I have now. Youth is certainly wasted on the young.

All in all, a good day. Tomorrow I'm driving back to Westwood for a second interview. That's a lot of driving in two days.

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

Judging from the New York Times wedding announcements Yale is the place to meet a future spouse. So many of this week's couples met at Yale. Does Yale include its marriage success rate in its POP? It should!

Because of the abundance of Yale unions I am disqualifying couples who met there, effectively eliminating half of this week's announcements. This week I chose a relationship that began at summer camp and was secured by the death of a friend.

Jordana Zakim and Justin Blitz

The fact that Blitz is a personal injury lawyer at a firm where his father is one of the principal partners shouldn't be held against him. Nor should the appearance of nepotism.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Song of the Week: "You Broke My Heart"

Download: Lavender Diamond - "You Broke My Heart"

Lavender Diamond's Becky Stark has a quivery, dramatic voice that is a little Bjork-like but more inviting, and in "You Broke My Heart" she puts it through a grand workout. The song starts softly as Stark repeats the line "you broke my heart" eight times, varying it as she goes. At first it's a baleful statement then she sings it like a hurt animal. As any great singer she makes the words signify more than what they mean, and it is what makes the song so transcendent.

Like last week's song of the week, LCD Soundsystem's "All My Friends," "You Broke My Heart" is a song that shows that repetition can be an effective technique if done so smartly and with skill. "You Broke My Heart" has a 1960s Wall of Sound vibe that builds and builds to an operatic crescendo. Stark begins in a low register and climaxes to a stirring conclusion. When she gets to the line "I hear the cavalry of light" I just about want to get on my feet and start clapping. I have yet to see Lavender Diamond live but if Stark can sing this song with as much passion as it already has in the recorded version, I can only imagine the chills it would send down my spine.

I'm not sure that the song is directly about heartbreak and love as the title would suggest. The rest of the lyrics seem to reside on a vast, elevated plain that is removed from personal experience. As the structure of the song itself suggests, the lyrics seek a glorious epiphany that is almost within its grasp. The song, I think, is willfully broad and ambiguous to better achieve universal resonance. It's certainly a song meant to be felt rather than analyzed.

Lavender Diamond's debut album, Imagine Our Love, comes out May 8 on Matador Records. The band may be accused of being too kitschy, and the album should reveal if they are more than just a band with a gimmicky sound. The Cavalry of Light EP suggests that they are, indeed, the real thing. Even if they are a gimmick, though, they will at least have given the world "You Broke My Heart."

Death in the Arroyo!

It's a sensationalistic title, I know, but it is the truth. A dead body was found near the entrance to the trails leading up to JPL, along the golf course. I had just entered the trail when I saw Kate and a cop walking towards me. She told me to turn around and take a detour up Rosemont to Arroyo and get back on the trails from there. I didn't glimpse the body, but a couple of participants did and said that the woman clearly wasn't a homeless person. The cops also reassured Kate that the person wasn't a runner, implying that we shouldn't worry that a crazed maniac was preying on runners out on the trails. Most likely she was just with the wrong person.

All this time that I've run on the trails it has crossed my mind that there are good places there to hide a body. I'm not planning anything, but when you're running for hours at a time these things do cross your mind. There are far more secluded places higher up and I'm sure Angeles Crest is a popular place to dump bodies.

In contrast to this gruesome scene, a few hundred yards away the Rose Bowl was bustling with activity and I'm sure none of them knew what was going on not too far away. The parking lots were packed, but I got there early enough to not have to deal with the traffic. I counted four events taking place in the area. The biggest by far is the Walk for Autism. There were thousands of participants for that event. On the southside an area of the parking lot was being used to collect old electronic gadgets. The lot was also where those attending the Pasadena Showcase House of Design were parking and being shuttled to the event site. A little closer to the Aquatic Center, some sort of Tai-Chi event was also taking place.

Like I said in my last post, this weekend is busy with events, and it's a gorgeous weekend to be outdoors. There's no excuse to stay at home and it's probably too hot to just stew indoors. Get out there and do something!

As for my run today, I wound up running between 13 and 14 miles. The detour around the body added a half a mile to my run. It got hot out there and my time isn't the best. It was a struggle to get up to Elmer and I just felt sluggish the whole time. However, it feels great to run a long one. I may be able to do San Diego in June after all if things move smoothly.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Saturday, Sunday...

Keep it under perspective...
Originally uploaded by CláudiaM.
So what is everyone doing this weekend? There's not a lot worth seeing in movie theatres, but thankfully there are a lot of things going on that ought to keep everyone busy. If none of them appeal to you, you can always just pick up a book and read.

The last weekend of April is recognized as the best weekend weather of the year in southern California. It rarely rains on that weekend and the weather tends to be pleasant. This weekend, though, is bucking that trend. It's going to be hot. However, the big events scheduled for the weekend are still on: Coachella should be raging at this moment and the Festival of Books will be starting up tomorrow and wrapping up on Sunday.

I'm planning on hitting the Festival of Books on Sunday. The panels I would want to check out are on Saturday, but I'm too busy tomorrow to trek over to Westwood. Even if I don't sit in on a panel on Sunday, it would be pleasant to walk around campus and take pictures. It has been a few years since I last went to the Festival of Books. I went the first five years and enjoyed it immensely. My schedule just never worked out these past few years. But Sunday I shall arise bright and early to beat the crowds and enjoy the scenery of UCLA...fight! fight! fight!

On Saturday I'm going to get up early and help out at the Rose Bowl for TNT practice as well as get in my own run. Later in the evening a friend is hosting a party at his house in the 909. Somewhere in there I need to do laundry.

This weekend is also a busy time for marathons. A contingent of lady friends--the Glamour Girls--are in Nashville this weekend to run the Country Music Marathon tomorrow. I was hoping I would be able to join them, but it didn't work out. FJ is in Big Sur to run a marathon there on Sunday. It's supposed to be a hilly course and unseasonably warm, but he's incredibly fit and ought to do well. Best of luck to them!

04.26.2007 - Sea Wolf/The Watson Twins/Parson Redheads

Parson Redheads
Parson Redheads

Parson Redheads opened. I only caught the last two songs, but they sounded good.

The Watson Twins
The Watson Twins

The Watson Twins performing their Kentucky-bred music.

Sea Wolf
Sea Wolf

Sea Wolf's Alex Brown Church looking dreamy as usual. He messed up the lyrics to "Middle Distance Runner" again. This time it was the last verse and it was more noticeable than last time at the Troubadour. Great performance, though.

*Earlimart was the headliner, but by 11pm I was tired with a worsening headache, so I took off.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The New Adventures of New Christine

I just read one of the most startling columns to ever appear in the LA Times.

Old Mike, New Christine

I commend Mike Penner for being so upfront and honest. It's quite a brave thing to do. She didn't have to do it. I'm sure most readers wouldn't have noticed "the change," but she's bringing a difficult issue to the forefront--in the sports pages of all places.

Wow, I'm still floored by her honesty. Coming out is difficult, but I'm sure it doesn't compare to telling the world you'll be undergoing gender reassignment. I hope all goes well for Christine.

Back to the Wood

I had an interview today in Westwood. I rarely make it over there these days, and it seems like every time I do the place is looking more different than I last remembered. The change this time was that the Mann National is closed for business.

What hasn't changed is the traffic. It took me less than an hour to get there, but that was before rush hour. Getting home took an hour and a half.

As for the interview, it was a first round interview and it seemed to go well. Perhaps too well. It felt like I was having a chat with the girls instead of being grilled. Perhaps I was lulled into thinking so and I was tricked into saying things that I wouldn't have otherwise. The ladies who interviewed me sounded positively giddy that I expected an offer right then and there. But no. I will hopefully be called in for another interview and a test to see how adept I am with the computer. I have my fingers crossed.

One thing I enjoy about the whole job interview process is the wearing of suits. I love wearing a suit. Not everyday, but it feels great to wear one now and again. I look damn good in a suit too. Sexy, even.

The best part of the day was that after the interview I had an hour left on my parking validation. So I walked around Westwood for a bit and bought a dozen Diddy Riese cookies. With some time left I slipped into Urban Outfitters. That turned out to be quite fortuitous. The store was having a winter clearance with already reduced stuff reduced a further 50%. I was able to get two blazers, a sweater and trousers for $70. $70! I love a great deal.

One final note. "American Idol" was a dud tonight. I know it was for a good cause, but the whole show just felt smarmy and insincere. The non-elimination was also a cop-out, but I expected it. I questioned the tastefulness of eliminating someone on a charity night. LaKisha lives to ruin one more American Idol champ's signature song.

Is "A Moment Like This" next?

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Days Like This

I was feeling bummed out for most of the day today. The day was too nice to be in the dumps, but it was one of those days. Thankfully it ended on a good note.

Today was my tutoring session with the ODLH School kids. They take their AP test in a couple of weeks. Today we practiced brainstorming. I've been tutoring for about six weeks now, but today was the first time where I felt a little more in control. Unfortunately there's only one more session left.

Afterwards, I braved traffic, which wasn't so bad today, and made my way back to Arcadia for track practice. TNT's summer team started speed workouts last week, so today I decided to join them. It marked my first speed workout since before the marathon--almost two months. I got there at 6:30, the usual start time from my previous teams, but it turned out this team meets at 7. I was a little early, but that was fine. I wanted to get home early anyway and catch "American Idol."

For tonight, since it's my first speed workout in a long time, I decided to take it easy. I would do three mile-repeats at an 8-minute pace. I did the first lap of the first mile way too fast. I wound up running that mile in 7:38, which felt good, but I was off in my pacing. The second mile came in at around 7:40 again. I felt great, so it wasn't an issue. The third mile was just about at 8 minutes. Since I felt so good, I threw in another mile, which also came in at under 8 minutes. Throw in the two miles of warm up and cool down and I wound up doing six miles for the evening.

I might be helping out on Saturday with the team. They're doing 18 miles and the head coaches have to leave early. I was planning on taking a yoga class that morning, but nothing beats coming to a TNT practice when you desire a pleasant, relaxing morning.

* * * * *

I didn't get home early enough tonight to see the first two Idol performances. I also missed Phil when I had to take care of something in the bedroom. As such, it's pointless to rank the performances tonight. Of the three I saw, though, LaKisha was the worst. Blake sounded so insincere, but he at least sang his song fine. LaKisha, though, tackled a song by yet another AI champion and wound up drawing negative comparisons. By performing "I Believe," the only conclusion anyone could reach was that LaKisha was no Fantasia. She again had problems with the quiet moments, the parts that required her to--you know--sing. She can yell fine but when she's not screaming LaKisha is just an OK singer.

Jordin's "You'll Never Walk Alone" was fine, but I wouldn't say it was one of the best in the show's history. In fact, I think I prefer Jerry Lewis's annual version over Jordin's.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

If I had money enough and time...

Originally uploaded by noahwesley.
A couple of weeks ago I mentioned to a friend that I've been doing a lot of volunteering. She asked me how much I was getting paid. I told her I didn't get paid, hence the term "volunteer."

She was shocked. When I mentioned to her how much I would get paid for the same kind of work, she was even more aghast at how low it was.

The sad thing is I enjoy doing my volunteer work. Contrary to what others may believe, I enjoy working. I just prefer to do things I enjoy. The problem comes when I don't enjoy the work. If I had the resources I would volunteer full time. Heck, I'd work for cookies at a job I enjoy.

Sadly, that's not how it works. We all want to make more money. Money is pride. I'd like to say I was above it all, but I'm not. I continue to struggle over doing work that fulfills me and work that pays. In my current job search that's what I'm attempting to do. Whether I'll be successful remains to be seen.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Sanjaya is Love

It's probably too early to miss Sanjaya, and for a while there I was worried about him. He seemed so crushed to leave "American Idol." I still think there's a conspiracy afoot. The producers probably booted him off as to not ruin their big "Idol Gives Back" episode on Wednesday.

Don't worry about Sanjaya, though. He's doing fine. He made an appearance at the White House Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday and drew long lines for his autograph. Tonight he's a guest on "Late Show with David Letterman," who I'm sure will throw plenty of zingers at the kid.

So, don't worry about Sanjaya. He's doing fine--and he's not singing!

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Death by Sushi

swimming upstream
Originally uploaded by rrrichard.
We went out for all-you-can-eat sushi last night for a friend's birthday at Kiku Sushi in Monrovia. It has been a while since I've had all-you-can-eat sushi, so I made sure I ate moderately during the day to leave enough room in my stomach.

However, that became a problem when it turned out we wouldn't be eating at the appointed time of 7:30PM. Kiku Sushi is a tiny place and there were sixteen of us, so we had to wait an hour for tables to clear up. I was already hungry by 7:30. I was ravenous by the time I sat down a little after 8:30. The problem when I get really hungry is that I eat way too fast.

The first orders of sushi were terrific. Not the best sushi I've had, but certainly quite good, and at $25 for all-you-can-eat in one hour, a very good value. Along with my Asahi, I was satisfying my disgruntled belly. We ordered a bunch of different things for the first round--spider rolls, tuna rolls, lobster rolls, unagi--and we were still famished for more. However, we were way too aggressive in our ordering. By the time the first plates came from our second batch, we had all slowed down. For me, what had been a satisfying sushi experience began to feel like torture. The lobster roll that I thought was so good earlier began to taste sickeningly rich in my mouth. I had to force myself to chew and swallow.

By the end I had to stand up because I just felt way too full. In fact the full feeling didn't go away for a couple of hours. We went to Dave and Buster's afterwards and all I wanted to do was sprawl on the floor and massage my belly.

At least I didn't puke, though, like another member of our party. As we were walking to our cars he began puking--in front of my car. No harm done. He just ate too fast.

Would I go back to Kiku? Of course. Next time I'll just pace myself better.

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

This Sunday's crop of wedding announcements were a dull lot, making it hard to pick a unique interesting union to highlight. So, rather by default, I'm picking the one with the best meet-cute story, which the Times also highlighted in its website.

Amanda Cody and Mark Donohue

Their story isn't terribly original, but it's cute nonetheless. Like many other past NYT wedding announcements, they met at a Halloween party where he caught her attention by organizing a group of guys to dress up as characters from Roger Hargreaves's Mr. Men and Little Miss. He does get points for being a firefighter.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Song of the Week: "All My Friends"

Download: LCD Soundsystem - "All My Friends"

LCD Soundsystem's new album, Sound of Silver, is excellent, and just about everyone agrees. The only problem I have with it is that one song in particular is so damn great that I have a hard time getting past it to listen to the other songs. "All My Friends" is a candidate for Song of 2007 for me, and it shows no sign of flagging. It's on repeat in my car, and I inevitably click to it on iTunes while on the computer.

What's so good about it?

Well, the random-sounding piano that repeats throughout would annoy most but it shows off James Murphy's brilliance by building on it, drums kick in, the bass and guitars come in a little later, and then the vocals emerge a minute and a half into the song, so that the song never sounds boring. Even at seven and a half minutes it never wears out its welcome. It can go on for fourteen minutes and I'd be happy.

That alone wouldn't make it a contender for song of the year, but once you throw in the song's theme, which resonates deeply with many an aging hipster and "All My Friends" quickly becomes a classic anthem. Essentially it's a sequel of sorts to "Losing My Edge," but the wry sarcasm of that song gives way to reflection of the good rough times of days gone by. The song is not of regret. While the narrator certainly misses his frenzied days of youth and "wouldn't trade one stupid decision for another five years of life," he's also acknowledging the future. The good times can't endure.

I used to think the song was about enduring friendship, but now I'm not so sure. Ultimately it's about change, sometimes rough, often unwelcome, rarely for the better, but there it is anyway.

Friday, April 20, 2007

It's a Gas

I've been eating a brand of oatmeal I bought from Trader Joe's called John McCann's Steel Cut Irish Oatmeal. It's damn good. I think it's the best oatmeal out there and well worth the time it takes to make. I prefer my oatmeal with a little bite to it, not mushy, and this does the trick if you don't overcook it. Actually, it's quite difficult to overcook. Throw in a little brown sugar, some raisins, milk, and it's a great hearty, healthy breakfast. Perfect for a rainy morning like we had today.

Unfortunately, though, it also gives me a case of gas so bad that it's good. Just make sure no one's around and let them rip all day long.

The National Pot Palladium Rose Bowl Run

When I read earlier this week that the Mann National in Westwood was set to close, I considered going out there one more time to see a movie. I didn't realize that it was going to close so soon. The National's last show was the 10:10 showing of Shooter. I missed it.

I'm hoping that another theater chain will pick up the lease on the National, but I doubt it. Single screen theaters are a thing of the past. I doubt Shooter has been packing it in at the National the last couple of weeks. It would be great if someone with a love for films can pick up the lease and show a different classic film every week. That's very unlikely, though.

So long, National. We'll always have Saving Private Ryan.

* * * * *

I received a mysterious text message this evening from a number I couldnt't recognize asking me if I was going to "do 420 right" tomorrow. I figured out who the text was from later. It was sent by the old co-worker I ran into last week--the one who was fired for e-mailing nude modeling photos of himself using his work e-mail.

Well, I'm going to risk looking like a big square by saying this, but I have never smoked marijuana, unless you count second hand smoke. I've never done any illicit drugs of any sort, and I'm really not that curious. I figure I don't miss it, so why bother? Besides, life is cheaper that way and I would have no idea where to go to buy some.

Now I'm 30. Way too old to try it for the first time. I've passed the allowable age for beginners. The next window won't open until I'm in my 60s and suffering from glaucoma or cancer.

* * * * *

I've neglected to mention this last week, but I'm delighted that LiveNation will be renovating the Hollywood Palladium. Driving by it the last few years, it looked so forlorn and I wondered when it will be eventually destroyed. So the news of LiveNation's agreement comes as a sweet surprise. I can't wait to go there for shows when it reopens.

I suppose this week is a wash in terms of old entertainment venues. The National closes and the Palladium gets a new lease on life.

* * * * *

I ran again today at the Rose Bowl. 3.5 miles, I think, in a little over 30 minutes. The legs felt great and I only took one walk break. My left calf still feels tight. It tightened on me last month during the marathon, and it felt tight during a couple of other runs since then. I thought the layoff would do it some good, but I was wrong. Maybe a massage would help?

I also went to my Thursday yoga class for the first time in six weeks. The knee held up well, but I am still being careful with it, but it's good to be back.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Nice to Meet Ya, West Covina: One World Vegetarian Restaurant

Who would have thought that a good, affordable vegetarian restaurant can be found in West Covina.

One World Vegetarian Cuisine is hidden in a strip mall, right next to liquor stores and tax preparer offices, behind Edwards Theatres on Glendora Avenue. It's not the first place I would expect a vegetarian restaurant to be situated but there it is.

I'm not a vegetarian but I do like to eat healthy when possible without sacrificing flavor. One World satisfies those requirements. The food is mostly Asian-inspired, but there are sandwiches, salads, burgers, soups, and other options. Today I ordered the veggie steak royale with brown rice. Quite tasty, perhaps a bit too much so. For next time I'm going to try the stuffed tomatoes or possibly the fried rice with "pork." The pho style soups also looked appetizing from what I could see at the other tables next to me. The service is wonderful; the hostesses quite friendly and nice.

I've been under the assumption that West Covina houses only big restaurant chains with portions meant to fatten, so it is a nice to discover that there are places like One World. And there's plenty of parking! You can't beat that.

Fight AIDS with Food

Tomorrow is the 13th Annual Dine Out Los Angeles. Participating restaurants will donate 20% or more of their day's proceeds to Aid for AIDS.

Who wants to eat out?

List of participating restaurants

Ice Cream Makes Things Better

Did you get your free scoop of Ben and Jerry's ice cream on Tuesday? I sure did. Two of them.

With the free gelato from Saturday, it has been a free ice cream week. They ought to make a national free ice cream day. I'm sure the crime will drop for the day. People usually hate waiting in lines, but they will do so with a smile if it's for free ice cream. There are no friendlier folks than those waiting for free ice cream. Ice cream makes everything better. Ice cream truly saves the day.

I don't feel too guilty about the extra calories consumed because I went on my longest run in a month today. Six miles. It was tough. I've felt great in the short runs I've done the last two weeks, but today's run was a struggle. It's likely due to being out of shape, but it's also possible that it was just a bad day for me. I ran the six miles in 55:30, but I really had to work for it. Here's hoping that I regain my level of fitness from just before the marathon and gear up for another race. The knee is holding up well, so I'm glad.

* * * * *

Tonight was country music night on "American Idol." Everyone did OK, but this was not a very thrilling night.

1. Melinda - Terrific as usual.

2. Jordin - A huge gap between her and Melinda. She sounded screechy in parts, but she had great control for the most part. I liked that her song built to its crescendo. Another preternatural performance from her.

3. Chris - He is nasally and I don't agree with his argument that it's "a form of singing." To me it's an affectation that hinders rather than helps him. Tonight it was on overdrive, especially early on. He has a fondness for slurred notes even if it doesn't help the song, perhaps confusing it for soulfulness. The song was bland but it had entertaining moments.

4. Blake - I really can't stand the guy and I still don't understand the adoration. To me he is a hack. Yet another cover of a cover, which like most copies of a copy resulted in a murky mess. He should have listened to the Ryan Adams version first because the Tim McGraw version is just about devoid of personality. Blake stripped it even more tonight until the song made no sense. The most overrated contestant of the season.

5. Phil - Definitely his kind of music, but he is still bland. At least the creepiness was toned down.

6. LaKisha - The song made no sense as she sang it. It sounded like two songs. The first part had her singing in a quiet, colorless manner. The second part turned into a loud mess. There was no natural progression between the two parts. She's in trouble.

7. Sanjaya - At least he is showing some improvement. Not his worst but certainlly another laughable effort.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Save the National!

Westwood just keeps changing. I just read in Jeffrey Wells's "Hollywood Elsewhere" column that the Mann National will be closing. I don't know if the theatre has landmark status--I doubt it--but I would hate to see it torn down. At the same time, I really don't think it should be anything but a movie theatre. One of the few things I miss about Westwood is the moviegoing experience. Sitting in a single-screen theatre like the Village or the National is a wonderful experience and I never fail to imagine what it was like to see a movie there back in the glory days. I saw Saving Private Ryan there, and when my brother returned from the Philippines, I made a point of taking him there to see Gladiator so he can experience it too.

I admit I haven't seen a movie at the National in years. Living forty miles away in West Covina with its nearby multiplexes totaling 68 screens, it's just much to convenient to stay here. But I do miss it. While watching Zodiac I immediately recognized the National and missed it anew.

Even if the theatre closes I hope it's not torn down. I'm sad just thinking about it.

Better Luck Next Year

After posting this afternoon on Jonathan Gold's Pulitzer win, I looked up who the other finalists were for the criticism prize. It turned out two critics from the LA Times were the other finalists: Christopher Knight (no, not Peter from "The Brady Bunch") for his art criticism and Mark Swed for his classical music reviews.

This marked one of the few years when I actually have regularly read all three finalists for a Pulitzer. I think Knight is a great reporter, and his reviews often feel more like reports rather than actual reviews. He's definitely not one to foist a strong opinion, which I prefer in the reviews I read. I want to hear a critic's opinion. The last review I read by Knight was his piece on Bruce Nauman's exhibit last month. It was a very informative review.

Swed's criticism has always interested me because I'm not that enamored with classical music. I read his reviews hoping to learn what is so great about classical music. Almost always I finish reading his review and I wish that I liked classical music. He does a great job making a concert come to life with vivid imagery and descriptions. Perhaps his reviews are too good because as much as they make me want to start listening to classical music, they also make me realize that I probably won't enjoy it as much as Swed's descriptions.

Of the three, though, I still would give the prize to Gold. His reviews teem with the joy inherent in eating. He's not simply about fine dining. Unlike the Times' S. Irene Virbila, whose reviews often drip with condescension, Gold is more interested in the pure enjoyment of eating, whether it be at a taco stand or a steakhouse. That is why he is arguably the most trusted critic in Los Angeles. More readers probably follow his recommendations than any other critic--of any kind--working here today.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Debt in Texas?

I just completed my tax return--state and federal--and now I have a headache. I put it off to the last minute because I knew I was going to be cutting a check, and I would rather hold on to my money as long as possible. This marked the first time I'm not getting a refund. Next year I should be back in refund territory.

I hope.

The good news was that the amount I owed was less than I expected. Not by much, but enough for me to splurge today on a vanilla latte.

The deadline has been confusing to me. All the literature I have read suggested that it was today, the first business day after the 15th. However, a couple of people--my sister and a guy at the gym--told me that it was tomorrow due to Emancipation Day being celebrated in D.C. If they and Wikipedia are to be believed, then I actually have until tomorrow. Regardless, I'm parting with some money today or tomorrow.

It's just been a screwy day today. Something just felt off all day.

The shooting at Virginia Tech.

The nor'easter affecting the Boston Marathon.

The LA Weekly winning a Pulitzer Prize as the very deserving Jonathan Gold won for criticism, the first ever for a food critic.

The death of Don Ho.

Kate Middleton dumped by Prince William for being too common.

What a day!

Sunday, April 15, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

The bride of this week's Announcement has a famous name--widowed from a Whitney-- marrying a somewhat younger "independent painter and restorer of boats" originally from Brazil.

Francine Whitney and Fernando Banhara

They met at Consolidated Yachts while she was settling the estate of her late husband, who had a financial interest in the company. I can almost imagine it as a romance novel. A well-connected widow, a Brazilian man who is apparently good with his hands, it's all too good.

Here's the wedding announcement for her marriage to Gifford Whitney (a yachtsman and woodcarver!) from 1992.

Saturday Looked Good to Me

The day started with a four-mile run with FJ and Andy. It marked my first run at the Rose Bowl in three weeks. The knee felt good, and I may be able to bump up my mileage this week. Great news.

Afterwards, Jane, Audrey and I made an effort to attend the BBQ'n at the Autry event in Griffith Park but we got there a little late and got stuck in some traffic. Jane bailed before finding parking while Audrey and I made another pass and found parking.

Entrance to Autry Center

However, when we waited in line, we were told that we would have to wait another hour to get food. We were starved by then and decided to bail and satisfy our BBQ cravings elsewhere.


Audrey researched our options on her Blackberry while I drove. We settled on Barn Burner since neither of us had been there and it was convenient.

Barn Burner

I ordered the pulled pork and brisket with sides of mashed sweet potatoes and cole slaw.

My Plate

The food was good and definitely worth a return visit. The sweet potatoes weren't to my liking, but next time I'll order something else.

Barn Burner Chicken

Afterwards I posed by the giant chicken in front of Barn Burner.

After dropping Audrey off, I headed to Altadena to get my free gelato at the grand opening of Bulgarini Gelato Artigianale. I waited for almost an hour, but it was worth it. I also ran into some folks I knew.

All in all, not a bad Saturday. Sunday, though, will be spent doing taxes and laundry.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Happy Birthday!

Originally uploaded by savemejebus.
It's my brother's birthday today. He's 33.

However, it's also Papa Smurf's birthday. He's 4. I noticed today how many dings and scratches Papa has, and with 72,000 miles in him, Papa has lived a lot of life the last four years. He still has more go in him. He better. He's still not paid for completely.


Here's Feist's wonderful and exuberant video for the song "1234" from her upcoming album, The Reminder.

And the New York Times has a great profile on her on tomorrow's Sunday Arts section.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Song of the Week: "What Led Me To This Town"

Download: The Jayhawks - "What Led Me To This Town"

This week's song takes me back seven years, fresh from college and in the midst of my infatuation with alt-country. Ryan Adams's Heartbreaker was breaking my heart then, and this song--"What Led Me To This Town"--by the Jayhawks counted as one of the first songs I ever downloaded.

The song transports me immediately, right from those first strums of the guitar, and the rest of the song is wonderful, blissful, dreamy pop. It only errs in that it has to end.

In terms of explication, the title works as a question and an explanation. The town in question is a place called Love. And while the question of "what led me to this town" at first sounds like a lament, a sigh of regret, it ultimately becomes a sigh of disbelief--disbelief in the fortunate position he finds himself in. While there is fear and trepidation, these soon reveal a sense of relief, so that when the narrator asks, "What happened to this boy?" it is with the happy realization of how far he had gotten and how lucky he is.

If "What Led Me To This Town" was simply a cheery song about finding love, I probably wouldn't pay it much attention. Gary Louris and the rest of the Jayhawks, though, were a far too crafty bunch of songwriters to resort to such treacle. The song works because it possesses a wry sensibility. The narrator tries to hide how he feels, complaining of how restrictive a life he now lives, but he just can't contain himself. He gives himself away with the exuberant chorus stating, "Blue lights are shining over my life."

The Past and the Pending

Last night I ventured out to Claremont to have drinks and hang out with James and Niki, classmates from grad school. It's been a while since I've been in Claremont, so the whole thing felt like a homecoming. Sure enough, old faces popped up during the evening. Our writing professor happened to be there too and we chatted for a bit. He has a novel coming out and will have some readings in SoCal. He's been on sabbatical working on his novel, which made me feel guilty because I haven't done much writing since graduating. I need a kick in the pants to get at it.

Also making an appearance was an old co-worker from HT. He left the company last summer to work for a new job. Last night he told me he got fired from that job for using company e-mail during lunch to send pictures from a partial nude modeling session he had done to co-workers and friends. He's a nice guy but not that smart. He claimed he didn't know that was inappropriate. Now he says he's working elsewhere for a little more money, so it worked out for him it seemed.

Niki just moved back to West Covina, so hopefully we'll get a chance to hang out more often, and James is just a few miles away.

When I got home I checked my e-mail and found out that two wonderful friends from TNT are moving out of state, one to Ohio the other to Colorado. So just as the past will always be there, there's always the future beckoning and with that some change.

Happy Friday the 13th. I need to do my taxes. Have you done yours?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Bravo, Matt!

I haven't seen the entire finale of "Top Design," but I did catch a little of it and the final decision. Of course, the winner was Matt, who coasted through the whole competition with his tasteful design ideas. Since I haven't seen the finale, I can't fully comment on whether Matt deserved the win or not. If it was a cumulative thing, Matt deserved it over Carisa regardless of how his loft looked. So, instead of an analysis of the finale, I'll spend a few moments bashing Carisa.

There is no way I can accept that Carisa was the second best designer in the show. I can name two or three early eliminees who were easily better than Carisa. A finale between Andrea and Matt would have been more appropriate.

So how did Carisa get to the finals? Well, as mediocre and predictable as her designs were, they did present a consistent perspective that gave her an identity over the other contestants. Most of all, though, she never screwed up the worst. When she did there was someone else who screwed up more, like last week when Andrea's dull furnishings marked her for elimination. I'm still reeling from her surprise victory with her uninspired dorm room.

Carisa was not an awful designer. She's quite good, but she wasn't impressive. Her rooms tend to look like IKEA model rooms. I would firmly put her in the middle of the pack. What really irritated me about her as a finalist was how annoying she was and how badly she treated those around her. She claimed that she's "expressive," which might explain the eye-rolling, but how does she explain the passive-aggressive behavior? The show made her carpenter, Carl, look like a rogue carpenter, but I can almost understand his defensiveness. The woman just doesn't know how to deal with people.

I also don't know what to make of her comment last night that she's glad that Matt won because he would have been devastated otherwise. He should be devastated if he lost to a hack. Carisa made it sound like that Matt can't handle defeat while she's more grounded and able to bear the sting of loss. Again, I haven't seen the episode, so I might be taking her comment out of context.

Overall, "Top Design" was a good effort. It's nowhere near the caliber of "Project Runway" or even "Top Chef." It suffered from some dubious decisions by the judges (kicking a contestant off for a paint choice that wasn't all that bad? another for including an afghan?). I did like the judges, though, for their personalities, and I don't care what others say, Todd Oldham was an excellent host. Not quite Tim Gunn, but I liked how helpful and supportive he was. If the show comes back, I hope he comes along with it and brings Amy Sedaris in for an episode.

I also caught Bravo's new show, "Shear Genius." I don't know a lot about hair, but I can't imagine the different challenges they can come up with for the contestants. I'm predicting it's going to be the silliest of Bravo's stable of reality shows but I did enjoy Jaclyn Smith and her signature kiss off to the eliminee: "That was your final cut."

Last night, Paul-Jean, the Warren Beatty look-a-like with the questionable French accent, was eliminated with his horrible styling that looked like three different colored wigs fastened to his model's head. The winner was fresh-faced Theodore with a lighthearted hairstyle that incorporated a treasure chest. It actually looked wearable and--unlike others--not painful. My choice, though, was Daisy with her dramatic bridal hairstyle.

I wonder what's next for Bravo. "Top Butter Carver"?

Fit and You Know It

I ought to start reviewing the various 24 Hour Fitness gyms in southern California. I live by two 24 Hour Sport gyms--Puente Hills and West Covina--but I rarely go to either one. Instead I have a tendency to tour the various 24 Hour gyms in the surrounding area. I most often frequent the gyms in Pasadena, but I also venture to the Brea gym once a week because the yoga instructor there is fantastic. I have nothing against the gyms near me, but it just worked out that I hang out a lot more in Pasadena because of my running and a lot of friends living there. But I will confess that the better scenery inside the Pasadena gyms was good motivation to work out there. I like to follow Barbara Walters's advice to relax and enjoy the view.

Tonight I tried out the new 24 Hour Fitness Magic Sport in Altadena. It's brand-spanking new, or relatively so. It's set up similarly to the Arclight: two stories, cardio machines on the first floor, weights upstairs. There's a basketball court, a large Group X room, a two lane pool, co-ed sauna and steam room. As can be expected of a new gym, the equipment is clean and new. There are plenty of machines to use and there's plenty of space to spread out.

However, it is surprising to note the number of treadmills out of commission. Quite a few of them weren't working, including ones that weren't even marked as "out of order." The one I used tonight kept slowing down to a crawl. Because of all the broken treadmills, people had to wait.

The gym wasn't particularly busy. Perhaps not everyone is aware of its existence. Even at 6:30 the gym wasn't crowded. Hopefully it can remain a secret. Otherwise more people will take advantage of the free parking.

Overall, a good gym. As can be expected from 24 Hour Fitness, the place is clean and well-maintained. It makes for an enjoyable work out.

* * * * *

I wasn't too surprised or sad about the departure of Haley from "American Idol." I was hoping it would be Phil, but Haley was a good alternate. I'm hoping that finally the show will put Phil (and me) out of misery.

As for Sanjaya, the show seems to be treating him as a joke. Ryan's toying with Sanjaya's anticipation is cruel and mean-spririted. He's not the worst singer of the show's history, but he is likable and utterly harmless.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Vonnegut is Dead

Kurt Vonnegut died. He was 84.

Save Andy Barker!

I haven't been watching much regular TV the last few years. In fact, apart from "30 Rock," "24" and the occasional "The Office," my TV viewing is limited to reality shows, late night TV, HGTV and the Food Network. So it was a rare treat to enjoy Andy Richter's new show, "Andy Barker, P.I."

Sadly, NBC is canceling the show. Richter just can't catch a break. One of the funniest shows of the last decade was his first stab at a comedy series, "Andy Richter Saves the Universe," and that was canceled all too soon.

If Richter resorts to a stupid-run-of-the-mill sitcom I wouldn't blame him. Twice he has given the world a terrific show and the world repays him by not watching. He has saved the universe, now it's time for us to save him. Save Andy Barker!

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Who Sang It Best?

I didn't get home in time to see Melinda sing, so I can't rank her. Word is that she was good but not spectacular. But it seems like everyone had problems with Latin night. Just about everyone was unspectacular, and as a result, Sanjaya actually impressed (relatively speaking).

1. Blake - Blake was the best of a lackluster night, but he did so with his best performance to date. I'm still not impressed by him, though. He's gotten way too much praise for his originality when all he is doing is mimicking the versions he preferred. Because the judges don't seem to listen to contemporary music beyond Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, it all sounds fresh to them.

2. Jordin - Not her best performance, but she sang it credibly. I hear a Beyonce quality to her singing, a pliable, easily-digestible sound that should prove to be marketable. Still, I'm in shock that I much prefer Gloria Estefan's original. And I'm not a Gloria Estefan.

3. Lakisha - She doesn't connect with what she's singing nor the audience. It's all about her and her big voice. So when Lakisha is called to sing something that doesn't require her to bellow, it comes off as insincere and spiritless. It wasn't her worst performance, but she's no longer one of the favorites.

4. Chris - The beginning was shaky, but he quickly took off once he got to the chorus and finished strong. He's not incredibly original nor does he have great range, but there is an engaging quality to him when he's not trying to seduce the camera.

5. Sanjaya - Boy, that lecherous stare at the camera creeped me out. Beyond that, Sanjaya gave a credible performance. He had problems with the low notes, but he does have a smooth voice in the right range. He's still too immature to engage the material fully, and I doubt he ever will. But at least he wasn't the worst tonight.

6. Haley - Her eyebrows seemd overplucked. The singing was again bland and uninspired. The shorts were short. She didn't deny that she's using what sex appeal she has to gain votes.

7. Phil - Not his worst, and it actually started OK, but it veered off into creepy territory again. The voice cracks were painful. I also despise his pathetic ploys to gain sympathy votes. Every one does it, but he's too desperate when he does so. It's not a pretty sight.

***Again, didn't see Melinda, but I'm pretty sure I would have preferred it over everyone else.***

Oh, and what business does Jennifer Lopez have giving these kids singing advice?

Save the Federal Building?

The Los Angeles Times reported today that the Federal Building in Westwood will likely be demolished to make room for two new towers to provide the FBI with more work space. Strangely, the larger area would accomodate fewer employees.

I'm sure most folks echo LAist's sentiment and see the Federal Building as "hideous." I wouldn't go so far as to call it hideous, but I am ambivalent about it. I do see the building as architecturally uninteresting, certainly of a type built in the 1960s and 1970s. It was built for service not for beauty. However, the building does have character. It's a solid, imposing structure that looks like a federal building. Its grid of office windows, something I don't see in newer buildings, softens the building's bureaucratic austerity a little by being so run-of-the-mill, as if to suggest that it's a government building but it was humbly serving the people. As an undergraduate at UCLA, the building served as a landmark for me that I was entering Westwood. Drive east on Wilshire from Santa Monica and the building is at its most striking as you crest the hill through the VA grounds.

It's unlikely the building will be saved for its architectural significance. Historical significance may be a losing argument as well. What might save the building is the NIMBY displeasure of Westside residents who fear the construction of a larger FBI facility may attract terrorists and would add even more traffic to the area. Those reasons and the simple fact that Westsiders tend to be cranky about a lot of things. The arguments, though, seem misguided. I'd love for the Federal Building to stay, but I can't really think of a good reason why it should.

What's in a "the"?

The runner-up for this week's New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week was the union between Tara Smith and Thomas Struth. If it wasn't for the made-for-the-movies romance between Amy Knapp and Myron Walden I would have gone with Smith/Struth because of a rather curious wording in the very first sentence of their announcement.

Tara Bray Smith, a writer, and Thomas Struth, the photographer, were married yesterday...

Why is she a writer while he is the photographer? What the wording suggests is that Struth is a recognizable figure, one that would lead a reader to wonder, "Is that the Thomas Struth? THE photographer? The New York Times answers, "Indeed, it is Thomas Struth, the photographer."

However, it's arguable that Ms. Smith is herself an instantly recognizable name. After all, her memoir, West of Then: A Mother, a Daughter, and a Journey Past Paradise, was published by a major publisher. It's not every one that gets published by a big time publisher. Doesn't that warrant a "the" instead of a "a" in front of "writer"?

If it's merely a question of who is more famous, then Struth seems to warrant the "the." Two days after the wedding announcement, the Times has a major article on Struth's new exhibit in today's paper. Still, it seems unfair and rather priggish to dub one partner "a writer" while the other is "the photographer." As a matter of recognizability, I would argue that neither is sufficiently famous to warrant being called "the photographer." I doubt a casual reader of the Times knows who Struth is.

Is there a rule that covers this? At what point does one become "the" instead of "a"?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Knee Update

After not running for over two weeks to let my knee heal, I got on the treadmill to test it out. The prognosis: good.

I felt like I had to relearn how to run for the first couple of minutes, but after that I was running normally. None of the strange cadence that was happening the last time I tested the knee out--and wound up reaggravating as a result--was apparent. There was very minor tightness in the area that wasn't painful but was just there. I managed to run a 10 minute pace for 15 minutes (1.5 miles). I could have gone on longer but I didn't want to push it. I jumped off and finished the rest of my workout on the elliptical machine. I did that for 30 minutes.

Most promising of all was the fact that I was able to stretch my left quad with no impingement from my knee. I didn't stretch it too hard, but the range of motion is mostly back. I would say that I'm at 95% and by next week I hope to start running longer miles again and putting more stress on the knee. It felt great to run again, especially after all the food I consumed this weekend.

I'm not out of the woods yet. I'll see how it feels when I wake up tomorrow. If it feels good I'll go for another treadmill run tomorrow. Things are getting better.

Easter weekend was good. Nothing special. On Saturday night a group of us met for a movie night. Wound up watching Talladega Nights, which made it the third go around for me. It's not as funny the third time.

Last night I watched Michael Haneke's Cache. It's a gripping, well-made film but it's also a tad overrated. Haneke doesn't answer all the questions raised by the film, which is fine and good, but the film's plot points probably won't hold up to scrutiny otherwise. A character does something shocking, but at the end you wonder why he did that. Haneke's answer seems to be that it doesn't matter. The character did what he did and the viewer is not owed an explanation. True, but the shocking nature of the act seems made to provoke the viewer rather than illuminate, so that it's not so much a natural act but a directorial ploy to shock the viewer. I recommend the film, though. Its discourse on voyeurism, xenophobia, and the relations between France and Algeria are intriguing and well-rendered, but there is a hint of manipulative filmmaking at work, too.

Hola, Gustavo

Esa-Pekka Salonen was a hunky young thing when he was named the conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. I've never been to a Philharmonic performance but I recall gazing at Salonen's picture that accompanied a story in the Calendar section introducing him as the orchestra's new condcutor. He reminded me of Christian Bale from Newsies with his floppy hair. It's hard to believe that it has been fifteen years since then and Salonen is now 48.

The Times broke the news today that Salonen will be leaving the Philharmonic after the 2008-2009 season. A successor has already been chosen. Gustavo Dudamel, a product of the Venezuelan youth orchestra. He will be all of 28 when he takes over. Show-off.

I'm not crazy about the afro, but I'm sure a little bit of Hollywood touch-up and the Philharmonic will have another camera-ready conductor at its helm.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

This week's announcement is ripe for a film version starring Diane Keaton.

Amy Knapp and Myron Walden

A white, divorced, powerful, professional woman in her 50s with a love for jazz falls in love with a younger African-American saxophonist. Will their age and racial difference split them apart? What would their friends say? I've read that the "cougar" phenomenon is taking hold, and this story has a lot going for it: great music, attractive characters, European locales. It's going to be the next great film romance. Let the bidding war begin!

Congratulations to the lovely couple!

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Song of the Week: "Middle Distance Runner"

Download: Sea Wolf - "Middle Distance Runner"

Since I've started running, songs with running motifs have appealed to me, so it's no surprise that Sea Wolf's "Middle Distance Runner" finds itself on my playlist often. But to say that I like it simply because it refers to running would minimize how effective and affecting it is as a lament.

What I admire most about the song is how it uses the metaphor of the middle distance runner. When the narrator confesses, "I will only ever be a middle distance runner," he is admitting an inability to commit, to be in it for the long run. While he's not a sprinter who is merely good for a short burst--a fling, he is also not a long distance runner that can slog through it all.

With the song's steady, unceasing beat driving things, the song becomes a lament for love/relationships that ultimately go nowhere. The beat, constant and unchanging, suggests firmness but it also hints at inflexibility, the willingness to adapt to situations and circumstances. The song works as a character study of a particular kind of individual who perpetually finds himself unable to make things last. "It's stamina that I lack," he says, but it may also have something to do with never taking an extra step and making things work. Rather than meet his lover halfway, he tells her, "You'll have to run to me tonight." He's also the kind of person who, rather than confront, succumbs to a situation. He refuses to talk about the future and avoids arguments, using the excuse of being too tired to fight. By simply admitting that he will only ever be a middle distance runner, he is turning it into a self-fulfilling prophecy. It's not so much that he is a middle distance runner, it is that he only wants to be a middle distance runner.

Such is the loneliness of the middle distance runner.

Brownie Points

Caught the Thermals tonight at the newly renovated Echo Plex downtairs at the Echo. It was my first time downstairs and it's quite a big venue. It's easily twice as big as upstairs and the soundsystem is terrific.

The band was awesome, rifling through their rapid-fire songs. They hit their stride early and kept it up, peaking at the end with the back-to-back combination of "A Pillar of Salt" and "Returning to the Fold."

The highlight of the evening, though, was the brownie I split with Liz and Erica at the Brite Spot. Topped with ice cream, it was one of the best brownies I've had. Chewy yet firm, sweet but not unbearably so, the brownie was certainly worth the extra calories. I ordered the soy chicken fried steak, which actually was delicious. Liz and Erica loved our adorable elderly waitress.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

A Good Deal?

The more I read about the Sam Zell's deal to buy the Tribune Company the more I think the employees got screwed. Zell got the better end of the deal here, putting in $300 million to control a $13 billion company. The deal seems to be gambling with the employees' retirement plan. If I were a Tribune employee I would be asking a lot of questions.

The Little Ones/Sea Wolf/The Temporary Thing @ the Troubadour

For almost a year now I've been enthralled by the L.A. music scene. So many great bands are popping up in the city making for many enjoyable nights of live music. Tonight, two of the city's best headlined the Troubadour: the Little Ones and Sea Wolf.

Opening the night was the Temporary Thing with a set that offered pleasant and promising music with very little energy. It doesn't help that three of the four band members played the set sitting down. The music, though, is good if a bit simple and safe. Some of the songs, while pretty, also suffered for sounding too much like older, better songs. One song started off like "Hotel California" and another sounded like Roy Orbison's "Crying." Still, the songs were tight and pretty, and the lead singer, Andrew Gleason, has a voice that reminded me of David Gray's pinched soulfulness. Also, what seemed like a gimmick of having their drummer drum on a wooden box actually worked well, but it also pointed out how simple the songs were. Simple but good.

I had seen Irving several times, and while I liked some of their songs, I was never a big fan. Every time I saw them, though, I was mesmerized by their beautiful, quiet bassist. He would stoically stand off to the side, play, and contribute backing vocals. Maybe it was because I wasn't as enthralled by the music that I found distraction in their bassist.

However, my fascination may also be justified because as Sea Wolf, Alex Brown Church--the bassist in question--creates folk-pop songs with a sensitive, wounded feel. It reminds me of Timothy Hutton from Ordinary People minus the suicidal tendencies. I saw Sea Wolf during their residency last year at Spaceland. Their songs, so intimate and often quiet, don't always work on the concert stage but the delivery and sincerity carries them through. They really work better heard through headphones in the stillness of your room. The live setting, though, offers other rewards like the charm of seeing Church catch himself mess up the lyrics to "Middle Distance Runner." The more rocking songs like "You're a Wolf" and "Black Dirt" also got the crowd swaying.

Sea Wolf signed with Dangerbird Records and should have an LP coming out this September. It's already one of my most eagerly awaited debuts of the year.

What's there to be said about the Little Ones that hasn't been said before? Their shows are joyful celebrations that always leaves me feeling giddy afterwards. They've grown stronger as performers. The recent European tour they were on certainly sharpened their skills. The show featured several new songs, and my favorite is a song that I'll call "Isolation." Like their best stuff, the song is marked by Greg Meyer's insanely propulsive drumming. Here's a band that just gets better and better, delivering great shows and great music each time I see them. They're certainly going to be big.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Who Sang It Best?

1. Melinda - She's firmly the best. This wasn't her best performance--the beginning was a bit unsettled--but she ended it with her usual brilliance.
2. Lakisha - She was guilty of trying too hard, but it was her best performance after two shaky weeks. She disregarded Tony Bennett's advice and threw in the "Ain't No Sunshine" part anyway.
3. Jordin - Great control and momentum. She's shaping up as the Kelly Clarkson of this season.
4. Chris R. - I didn't think it was his best performance, but he came off well in a musical style that could have ruined him.
5. Haley - Decent performance but still bland. Melinda would have hit that song out of the park. It's obvious she doesn't listen to the words she's singing and instead focuses on selling her looks more than the song. Still, she's far from the worst.
6. Sanjaya - Like I said before, the kid can sing. Not great, but not bad either. He still looked ridiculous, and it was very clear that those watching were more embarrassed for him than he was. He'll probably be around for a couple more weeks.
7. Gina - She sang it well but for someone who was supposed to be rock and roll, it was a cheesy song choice. It came off as fake and safe.
8. Phil - Creepy. If he was thinking of his wife while singing that song, it's time for her to get a restraining order.

*I didn't catch Blake's performance but the little snippet I saw at the end made it clear that he was still his cheesy self. Lame.

Monday, April 02, 2007

My Favorite Weekend

I have added a new goal in life. I want to appear on the LA Times's My Favorite Weekend series. First I have to become a celebrity since it seems that only actors and actresses are allowed to enjoy a hike in Runyon Canyon and sushi at Nobu. Regular people don't have or deserve favorite weekends.

Frankly, the Times should infuse new blood into this series because these favorite weekends have been reading the same lately. Yoga, followed by breakfast at Fred 62, followed by a massage at some spa most of us can't afford, followed by lunch (often sushi), a hike somewhere, dinner at another pricey restaurant, and to prove they are just like us, the celebrity usually says they stay in on Saturday night to watch movies. Yeah, right. Sunday is usually a leisurely brunch, a day with the dogs, and more pricey meals. Celebrities never go to church.

I should try to write up my favorite weekend one of these days and perhaps post it here. As for my actual weekend, it's quite embarrassing. I stayed in. When I was younger I used to be embarrassed to tell anyone who asked that I stayed in during the weekend. Young folks are supposed to go out and have fun not stay in and watch "The Golden Girls" and "Empty Nest." But I often did and liked it. Nowadays, though, I go out far more frequently than I stay in, so it has become a luxury to stay in on a weekend. I look forward to quiet weekends. However, two of them in a row usually gets me restless.

On Saturday I finally watched Tristram Shandy: A Cock and Bull Story. Quite funny and a bit of a headscratcher. Sunday was laundry day. I do laundry every two or three weeks based on when I run out of underwear. I wasn't out but I didn't have enough to last me the week. I read through Us Weekly and Entertainment Weekly and agreed with the majority on Who Wore It Best. I had KFC for dinner and settled in to watch "The Amazing Race" and a little of "The Apprentice." Then I slept.

The great thing about staying in this weekend, too, was that my knee got some much needed rest. It still doesn't feel normal but it hasn't felt this good in a long while. A few more days and I might barely feel it. I'm hoping to test it out later this week. I miss running.

Running, that's one thing that will certainly be in my favorite weekend.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

New York Times Wedding Announcement of the Week

This week's couple met in prekindergarten at Hunter College Elementary School in Manhattan. I guess somebody finally got over their fear of commitment.

Jessica Liberman and Keith Wilcox

The details are sketchy on how long they have been dating. Did they start going out in prekindergarten or did they wait until first grade? Did they ever break up? When did he propose? It may be possible that I'm reading this too literally. Perhaps they met while hanging out last year at prekindergarten. What they were doing there I would rather not know.