09 September 2011

9/11 ... Ten Years After Pearl Harbor

We won't forget ... ten years or a thousand.
The Twin Towers coming down in such ignominious fashion has always left me embittered.  I will never forget --  We will never forget -- the shock to discover our national vulnerabilities revealed on the brightest of world stages and our collective cocksuredness mussed much in the same way a tall distinguished man in a handsome 3-piece feels and looks after he has tripped and tumbled in the public square, tearing his otherwise impeccable pinstripe suit, with cane and briefcase spilling about before him, scuffing hands, a knee, and perhaps even losing a tooth.  This is a raw moment of embarrassment and shock and pain.

But, America didn't stumble.  We were tripped, and by a schoolyard coward who couldn't or wouldn't walk up to us and take a shot.  No, there was no honor in this knock-down that we were handed ten years ago.  And, the subsequent geopolitical machinations, in all their ugliness and complications and import that we've engaged in since, have been hard on us in more ways than we can count. The thousands of lives lost and families forever impacted that fateful, perfectly clear day in New York and DC and Pennsylvania.   Hundreds of billions of dollars spent and thousands of lives of US service men and women lost and given to help this gentleman get back up, and to protect the others of us in the public square.  There's much honor there that needs to be recognized as well.

The pride is also there when we remember and recognize the first-responders and fellow-passengers who knew they would likely die and yet didn't hesitate to act.   They climbed staircases and walked into a burning Pentagon and carried injured men and women or they charged into a barricaded cockpit with nothing but a rebel yell knowing they would never make it out of those buildings or get off of that plane.

My children and I routinely waive at our local firehouse trucks from LA City station No. 66 as they drive here in South Central Los Angeles.  These men risk their lives for these same citizens in one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the country.  We waive at our local LAPD as they drive our streets.  I thank the service men and women I see in the airports that I travel through when I'm hopping on some plane.  Not always, and not as much as I used to after 9/11 ... but more than I used to prior.

There was another cheap shot taken on America by Imperialistic Japan on that now infamous date of 12/7, known today as Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day.  Only two generations later and most young Americans don't know that date.  There is no lingering animosity between our countries and cultures to aid in such a recollection.  It was a date that, as FDR said, would live in infamy.  My two boys know that date as their mother's birthday, not a deadly attack against our fleet in the Pacific.

Our countries today are both democracies with a supreme focus on the free market.  Japan is one of our closest allies, and not just in Asia.  Our kids rock the same asymmetrical haircuts.  They wear the same fashion, play the same video games, and listen to the same rock (usually) and jazz and classical music.

A scant ten years after 12/7, Japan was a nascent democracy and on its way to finding its place in the free markets of the world.  Two decades later theirs was a booming inchoate economic powerhouse readying itself to one day soon take on the US.  Now look at her.  Japan is absolutely one of the jewels of the G8, a consistently supreme economy in finance, manufacturing, technology and the list continues to grow and impress.

Compare ten years post 9/11 to ten years after December 7th, and the difference is both striking and stark.  There is no former nationalistic adversary, no country to point at as a worthy opponent.  We in the West can only look at a worldview that hates anything that reflects or embodies modernity or even promotes human rights.  It is a worldview that engenders fear and hatred against anyone or thing or system that puts women in schools or takes them out of a hijab.  It is a worldview that radicalizes young men who would ordinarily say peaceful prayers and lead productive lives.  It is a worldview that is stuck in the dark ages and can now only find pride in hating the West -- that has become their raison d'etre.

Each major religion has gone through some sort of reformation.  This worldview that I write about has not as of yet.  Perhaps with the "Arab spring" this might be possible.  But, it is ten years after 9/11 and our chances of having a cordial statecraft relationship in the Middle East is perhaps possible only because the U.S. brought order to Iraq and Afghanistan.  Gadaffi basically laid down in submission after we wiped the floor with his neighbors, and said "Don't attack me! I'm with you guys on this terrorist thing!  Oh, yeah, and I love Condi Rice!"

The Arab street and the movements in Syria and Egypt and elsewhere, owe much thanks to an American and Western policy of helping to rebuild after conflict.  Look to Europe and Germany and the Marshall Plan and to Japan and Korea and to any region where our footprint (sometimes a bit too heavy) has "veni, vidi, vici'd" its way to victory and then departed only to remain allied with the former enemy and their new and improved economy (but don't look at Vietnam -- Look away!  Look away!).  If we can help Iraq and Afghanistan rebuild to a new future that is in their own hands (and not the hands of a despot and his psychotic children), and if Saudi Arabia reform a bit like Jordan, and if we can help them both open up towards democratization, then perhaps we'd see a true Arab spring that would bloom like flowers in a desert oasis, and perhaps Syria and Libya and Lebanon will know what true freedom looks like.

As it says in Isiah 35:

"The desert will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.  Like the crocus it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy … water will gush forth in the desert and streams in the desert.  The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs."

If only.

27 August 2011

Brankton Walks Austin (Part 12)

Brankton palmed the keys to the rental and his room and nodded a terse thanks to Pete who still had those rays of energy -- powerful enough to sterilize unsuspecting passersby -- projecting out in Brankton's general direction.  As he wasn't sporting his lead underwear, Brankton tried putting enough distance between himself and the desk where others in the Baron's party might also be checking-in.

He settled behind a large desert plant with several dark red flowers in full bloom from where he could regroup and assess his next move.  It seemed like a lifetime had passed between yesterday's casual Friday at NBCUniversal and today, standing in the Driskill's lobby with a large knot pitting in his stomach.

"Mr. Newhan!"

Brankton jumped in spite of himself; so much for keeping a low profile.  He'd been caught spying, and looked back over his shoulder to Pete with an annoyed and guilty head gesture of "yeeesss?"

"Elevators are just around the corner, sir!"  Pete pointed with a crook in his arm.  "Shall I show you the way?!"

The top-half of Pete began to move from out behind the desk, but Brankton didn't wait for the lower-half of his energetic escort to appear as well.  He bolted around the plant and headed for what appeared to be the way.   In the same instant he remembered that the Sabbath was over and reached for his phone to call his office.  He glimpsed Pete giving up the cause and was momentarily relieved as he turned the corner.

"Hey!"  It was a woman's voice, with an accent.  There wasn't enough time for another word to be spoken so Brankton couldn't place its origin just yet.

The side of Brankton's face met with the top of his ex-mother-in-law's head at an odd angle, emanating a sound not too dissimilar of two bowling balls bumping into each other in the rack after their trips down the local lanes.  The pain and bruising would subside, but the hollow thud both heard would not soon be forgotten by either Brankton or the Baroness.  Insult to injury was the shattered screen of Brankton's iPhone as it landed flat on the tile floor.

"Ooooh, oooh!  Oh, darling!"  The step-mother to Brankton's ex was rubbing her head as if making a wish on a genie's lamp.  A more lithe figure could not be cut by a 50 yr-old woman.  She was legs and  leisure and embodied about the only class in the Baron's immediate circle, save for his daughter, Brankton felt.

"Sh*t!"  Brankton bent to pick up his phone, which surprisingly was still intact, though the screen was cracked in several large sections.  He also picked-up two tiny envelopes with rental keys in them as well.   He looked up to make his apologies.  "I am so sorry.  Are you all right?  That was my fault," he said.  "I think this one belongs to you,"  he extended a small envelope in her direction.

"Oh, not to worry, darling," said the Baron's wife miffed.  She reached out blindly to Brankton, feeling for this stranger with her keys and asked, "Are you okay?"  She put the the envelope in her purse.

Their eyes met for the first time, and in spite of concussed senses each recognized the other.

"My God!  Oh, my God!  Brankton, darling!"

"Hi, Dominique." It was Brankton's turn to rub his injury, and because he had about a 3-minute head start on expecting the Baron's family to be in Austin, he wasn't as surprised as she about ramming his cranium into her's.

"What in the hell are you doing here, darling?!"

"Well, it's good to see you, too," Brankton deadpanned.

"I'm sorry, Brankton, but do you know that Sophia is getting married?"

"I just found out," Brankton pointed back toward the front-desk and felt like a complete idiot that a glorified bellhop had informed him that the love of his life was remarrying.

"Surely, you must know that this, your being here," the Baron's third wife, with a silver clutch in her hand, waved her arms around in a swirling motion as she looked about, "is quite unexpected, darling."  She was about twenty years younger than the Baron who was almost 70, and yet she could pass for late 30's.

Brankton noticed for the first time that the trip-hop ambient chill soundtrack favored by most upscale hotels had begun its evening shift.  He liked it, even if it was a bit played out.  All of a sudden he needed a drink.

"Dominique, I just checked-in.  I'm in town on business."  Brankton pointed again back in the direction of no-period P, which reminded him that he had to call the office which was two hours ahead; he pushed the power button on his iPhone to see if he needed to be more pissed off than he was currently. Please work, he thought. 

"Darling, but how did you know that Sophia was getting married this weekend?"

"I didn't.  Swear," said Brankton a bit irritated.  Divorce had many attendant negative consequences, but one of the more ungainly  had to be the creation of a new class of hyphenate family members.  The iPhone's home-screen finally appeared to the relief of Brankton who looked back to his ex-step-mother-in-law.  "I'm here to sign a new act, and have to go out tonight to see him at some club just down the street."

"Oh, really?  So you just decided to stay at the Driskill?"  Sounded a bit fishy to Brankton now that he heard it put like that, and with the English lilt of an islander no less.  The Baron was a man of wealth and taste.  And his taste in women leaned toward the Caribbean:  Olive-skinned, tall, beautiful, and well-spoken.   Brankton had to give the Baron that at least.

"Fine, darling.  Whatever you say," Dominique pulled Brankton toward the elevators.  "Meanwhile, you can tell me your version of the truth over a drink as you and I get away from the lobby."

For a brief moment, it looked like the bartender on the second-floor veranda was actually reading the recipes of the drinks he was pouring.  He'd read a bit, turn the page, then walk over and make a drink.  Then read some more, pour a few more drinks. Brankton watched this for a few minutes before he confirmed that the bartender was most likely the second-string crew, probably a local college kid trying to get some reading done for class while working what would ordinarily be a slow shift.  The A-team would be downstairs working the wedding or the rehearsal dinner or whatever his ex had planned.

"Clink-clink, darling!" said the Baron's wife, shaking Brankton's empty glass with ice rattling to that area behind the bar where waitstaff do her bidding.

"Another Jack-n-Coke?" said the bartender.  Brankton took the span of his hand and inverted it vertically for visual aid.

"Make it tall," said Brankton.

The bartender looked at the Baron's wife.  "She'll have another Bellini," said Brankton, who personally preferred the blackcurrant of the Kir Royale over the peachy, summery Bellini as far as Champagne drinks are concerned.  He pulled his glass from her hand.

"We have one of these every Sunday afternoon at the club," said the Baron's wife now with only her rightful drink in-hand.  "Some traditions are good, wouldn't you agree, Brankton?"  He did agree, but he didn't like the traditions that screwed him over.

"What's it been?  Three years?" asked Dominique.

"Not quite 150 Bellini's," said Brankton pointing at her Sunday afternoon drink, calculating.  Plus three Bellini's from today is 153, he thought.

"You look amazing, Brankton, darling."  The Baron's wife threw one leg over the other, with her open-toed pump pointing at her former ex-step-son-in-law.  Brankton pulled another ice cube from his glass and rubbed it on his cheek bone.

"So, I have to know ... who's the guy?" he finally asked the question that no ex wants to really know the answer to.

"Here.  Try one of the these."

"What's that?" he asked.

"For my back.  Does wonders for the pain, as well as rehearsal dinners," she said.   She placed a silver pill box on the bar and opened it revealing nine elliptical Vicodin pills lined-up 3x3.  "You're going to need it."

"Yeah?  That right?"  Brankton looked at his watch; he had a little over an hour until the set would start.  "Two please," he said.

"Two?  Why not?"  said the Baron's wife.  One neat little row of life-numbing capsules disappeared; two for him, one for her style as they toasted with freshened drinks.

"Clink-clink," said Brankton.

20 August 2011

Brankton Walks Austin (Part 11)

Next time he'd come here during the week, when a pedometer wouldn't clock the seven Sabbath miles he walked in the Austin, Texas, heat.  That was the thought that was running through Brankton's head when someone's shadow provided momentary shade from the sun that was bathing or barraging his squinting punim with a warm glow or harsh glare of its damaging or darkening rays.  Depends on one's perspective thought Brankton.  His mother never went in the sun without a hat on and SPF and the occasional parasol.  His dad couldn't be bothered, and since he wanted to emulate his father, whether he admitted it or not, neither could Brankton.

"So, dude, are you ready for Jackie to drop you off at your hotel?"  asked a somewhat optimistic Nelson.

"Dude!  Don't call me dude, dude," said Brankton in monotone irritation, eyes closed.  "You call your father the Rebbe "dude" with that mouth?"

The shadow didn't answer.  It just hung over Brankton with an air of expectancy.

"That a no then?"

"It's dad or sir," said the voice providing the shade.  "Sometimes 'pop'."

"But, never dude, am I right?"  Brankton's eyes remained closed, but the squint was gone; he could hear the eternal smile in Nelson's voice.  "So, do you have three dates for this evening now?"  asked Brankton more as a pretext.

"Nah, their idea of fun isn't quite on the same page as mine."

"Do you mean not quite on the same side of the plate?"  Brankton's eyes opened.  He wanted to see Nelson's face for this answer, shade or no shade.  He was instead offered a large hand and pulled to his feet.  A silent Nelson examined the stippling and indentations on Brankton's back made by the concrete as Brankton trudged up the walkway.   He found his clothes where he left them hanging on the small oak like some Mark Twain character fixin' for a swim down by the watering hole.

"The offer stands," Nelson finally said.  "You really don't need to hike it back.  We can drop you."

After a few awkward moments of a wrapped towel around his waist and struggling out of wet trunks and the slipping on of khakis trying not to expose himself to sexually aggressive coeds and ambiguous Chaucer-loving beefcakes, Brankton turned his back to Barton Springs and walked to the Driskill Hotel.

The Driskill with its six million bricks was a place that tried to shutdown every few decades or so.  Built just after the Civil War -- or as they say in the South, the War of Northern Aggression -- the Driskill Hotel was the vision of a cattle baron who sold cattle to the Confederate Army and made a tidy little fortune.   If the war was his mint, the Driskill was his sinkhole.  Two years after losing the Driskill in a poker game, Colonel Jesse Driskill died broke.

From one baron to another, only a century apart.  A Confederate cattle baron built it, and now an Italian Baron with a portfolio of luxury hotels around the globe, also owned the Driskill.  Brankton knew this, but he didn't.  Like so many things about his ex-wife's life, he "heard" that the Baron owned a luxury hotel in Austin, but didn't "hear" that it was the Driskill.  There was a reason his ex lived in Austin, yes, and there was a reason she called him obtuse.  Some things just didn't stick.  Things that had to do with her family's wealth mostly.  With her trust fund, yes, but more to do with their privilege and condescension.

It wasn't that he didn't want to know about his wife's family and life.  It was that, well, yeah, Brankton didn't want to know about his wife's family and their forcing a prenup on him last minute like that.  He forced himself to not know. To unremember.  To be a dimwitted dullard when it came to her Baron father, which was tough considering that he was standing in front of him, off to the side, between the lobby and the bar not 30 feet away.

Brankton recognized his accent and resonant voice, even from a distance, over the din of what?  Definitely something was going on in Austin.  Brankton sneaked left to check-in with the front desk where he found a man who was as still as a wax figure.

"Hi, there.  Brankton Newhan."

"I'm sorry, you must have me confused. I'm Sarell P Goodworthy.  My friends call me Pete on account my middle name is just an initial, "P" -- no period --so they named me Peter in the 5th grade ... which I have always hated."  Brankton looked blankly at the man to make sure he was serious.  Was this perhaps an animatronic like Abe Lincoln at Disneyland that came to life when spoken to?  Brankton began to say something.

"I'm just joshin' with ya, Mr. Newhan.  But, now you know a little about me, and we're lookin' forward to learnin' about you during your stay with us."

The energy that exploded from no-period P almost sapped all of the remaining strength from Brankton.  It reminded him of when he used to crouch around corners and jump out and frighten his mother.  Several times she nearly fell reacting to his antics and once she even cried, which put an end to the fun of scaring the hell out of one's mother.

"Welcome.  We've been expecting you, sir."

Brankton would have preferred a simple "good evening," but whatever. "Hello," was all he could muster back to ole Petey.

"We have your car for you parked just outside.  And we've already taken your luggage which arrived FedEx today upstairs and unpacked for you."   A freakishly small yet bespoke envelope contained his room key and another the keys to his rental.  Pete presented them to Brankton hand-over-forearm like a sommelier would a fine Cabernet.

"Say, Pete, what's going on tonight?  Isn't that the Baron I spy with my little eye?"  Brankton felt the sarcasm creeping in with alacrity.

"You know the Baron, sir?"

"Yes, well, let's just say I used to be apart of a subsidiary of his vast empire.  Based in Los Angeles."

"Oh, very good.  Well then you must know our GM, the Baron's daughter, Sophia.  It's her wedding this weekend."  No-period P seemed to rise on his toes several inches as if he were trying on heels for a bridal party dress.

"You don't say."  The universe was telling Brankton something he was sure of it; he just wasn't sure if he was hearing it right.

22 July 2011

Groundhog Day ... L.A. Style

Tobolowsky and Murray nail Ned Ryerson the Insurance agent cold.  Bing!!!
To help reduce this rather large man gut I seem to be wearing these days, I've taken to the trails in and around the Santa Monica Mountains.  There are some steep trails, but mostly I stick to about two miles on the streets and a mile in the rather flat trails.  So far, after three months or so, I'm on a daily routine.  (I hope to be running or swimming again just as soon as I feel I'm in shape enough to put that stress on my lower back.  I know, I know -- old men and their troubles.)

When one goes out on one's hike/walk (or, if you'd rather go Victorian on me, one's constitutional), you routinely  run into the same morning crowd or afternoon folks as they make their way with their dogs on their leads and doggie bags in their hands.  Everyone does the usual head nod or "hello's" and "how are ya's," except for a few folks with other things on their minds, or iPods blasting with earbuds firmly in place.

There are two that I run into regularly, who are just the most interesting of people.  The first is a septuagenarian (or thereabouts), who for an early 70-something is in terrific shape.  Here's the thing: each time (2x a week) I run into this gentleman, he's being trailed (and I mean literally) by his doppelganger son about 3 or 4 feet back.  And his son is none too happy about this Sisyphean task he must undertake each day just before dusk, escorting dear old dad.  The expression on son's face is painfully priceless.

Here's me:  "Good evening.  How are you?"

Here's them:  (older gentleman)  Smiles and nods. (son, a few feet back, like pulling teeth) "Hello," he says.

Both of them are wearing, and always wear, matching baseball caps of some entertainment company.  The first time I met them on my way (the wayfarer in me knows its good juju to greet warmly those I meet on the way), I asked them about the caps.  The father, of whom I suspect speaks only/mostly Farsi, keeps smiling and walking and the son is left to turn and walk backwards still trailing dad, looking at me (still rather glumly) and raise his shoulders in that universal sign of "I have no idea what company this is, and why the hell are you bothering us."  You've seen that shrug before, am I right, Dear Reader?  And so now I am tempted to cross the road each time I see these two, the smiling/stern father/son perambulators, but I resist and so remain "smiling John" on my way to losing 25 pounds with my own nod and my own earbuds firmly in place with Steely Dan on Pandora giving my New Balance a lift.

The next character to appear in our fair story hails from Germany originally (actually, as she says, "Western Pomerania near the Baltic Sea").  She's just shy of 80, and is a remarkable looking woman, stern, with skin that tans easily, blonde hair, and daily walking routine of three times up and down the main street that leads into our little community.  Her name is Krista, and she for the past three months has not once recognized me.  As a result of the many conversations we've shared I know her address (she's told me twice), that she has a nephew who lives near us, a brother who lives in Riverside and a sweet sister who passed away about ten years ago.  Krista has lived in our neighborhood for 30 years.  Worked for Bank of America for the same stretch and is now some five years retired -- she's got the gold ring to show for her troubles that she has shown me 10 times at least.  Her sister came over to the states as a maid to work in her late teens when World War II was enveloping all of Europe.

The family had a wonderful farm (very successful), and they had just lost their mother.  The German government began taking over large farms, and her dad had heard of many resistant farmers being shot for taking offense to the state taking over their businesses.  After her sister landed in Malibu (where she would live almost 60 years), she sent for Krista who made it in her early teens.  Think of it.  Leaving it all behind to a land you know nothing about, no one except your teenage sister to care for you, to start all from scratch.  Her dad died not soon after, and they were immediately joined by their brother who barely made it out of Germany because he was of fighting age, but was given permission because of their family situation.  Nice of those Nazi bastards to let Jan join his sibs in Malibu.

And, there it is, my own very personal Groundhog Day.  Two or three days a week.  Jg. and Krista having a chat.  Me already knowing many (many) interesting details about her life, and she telling me about her career and not marrying and her house and her affection for Pomerania, still said in thick Teutonic accent, which I find to be just odd after a half-century of SoCal valley speak all around her.  Like I said, strong woman she.   Btw, I don't for one second believe that she has dementia or Alzheimer's of any form.  I just think that at a certain age, new folks don't register as they might have before.  I take zero offense by how little of an impression I've made on dear Krista, but am now tempted to cross the street each time I see her coming my way.   Just joshing ... had you there for a second.  But, I do feel like Bill Murray a bit in that classic movie when I run into her.  It's Nietzsche's "eternal recurrence" writ ever so small in SoCal.

I actually love the film Groundhog Day, especially the scene near the very end when Murray's character realizes that life isn't about him, and he makes lemonade out of lemons and he realizes that every second and moment and day in our life is a present and gift and opportunity to lead an extraordinary life, and to impact those around us.  And, darn it if each of us doesn't have that chance also.  Every morning, I say "thank you" to God for our chance also, Dear Reader.

You know, there's a cute little scene in Jerry Maguire where Jerry's mentor "Dicky Fox" tells Jerry how each day he wakes up, how he claps his hands and is grateful for a new day!  Remember that scene?  Well, that (non-professional) actor is Jared Jusim, a leading attorney at Sony Pictures that I've consulted with off and on over the last ten years or so.  Jared is a class act; a real old school cat who did that picture with Cameron Crowe and has some interesting things to share about his experience in front of the camera on that shoot.  Anyway, throw a rock in L.A. and you will hit a reference to some movie or actor or tv show.  We're ridiculous like that.

See you all tomorrow morning at 6:00 am when Groundhog Day repeats itself (remember the clock slowly tumbling over from 5:59), and we can all hail a collective clap and hit the ground running with Krista, Jg., "Dicky Fox," and "Ned Ryerson."


12 July 2011

beautiful things ...

2010 Academy Award  Nominees, Best Screenplay
These men are doing what they love.  They write.  They write and are paid for it.  Did I mention they write well?  My definition of a beautiful thing: doing what you love and making a living (a good living, well at least a living wage!) while you're at it, gulldernit.

I mean look .. would you look at those faces? They all seem to be pretty content, no?  That's a beautiful thing.  Seeing someone skilled at what they do best, and just crushing it.  Really giving it the beans, you know?  Makes me smile and be happy for them.  Bastards all.
Brit Marling
This week or next I am going to tell you of a young, beautiful, incredibly talented woman who will blow you away with her competence, and amazing timing, and, I'm sure, a measure of luck.  Sometimes we make our own luck.  The luck that's defined as being persistent and passionate and predisposed to not taking no for an answer.  She's a writer and an actress and a producer.  Triple threat who scored the trifecta a few months back.  Meant to write a piece on her, but have just been swamped.  Promise, it's worth it, the wait.  She was featured at Sundance, and on a major TV show, and just happened to have one of her films picked-up that she directed, produced, wrote and starred in ... all in the same week!  Not a bad day's work for someone just out of film school.

S. Glau
Beautiful things sometimes come in obvious packages.  That's Summer Glau above, btw.  I've seen her around town.  Mind you, she didn't look like this when I saw her, but she took your breath away all the same.  But, when we really look, when we take that extra moment, we see the beauty we're supposed to and meant to see, and not just olive-skinned, brunettes either.

In the midst of the city, or a busy airport, or whilst driving our car on PCH, upset to be in traffic again, we can still find beauty.  When we stop, and really put our minds and spirit in God's hands and ask Him for a respite, a moment's break from the total shite, we'll notice the family of foreign tourists stopping to take a photo in front of the setting sun as it dips below the Pacific Ocean and the stranger in his wet-suit asking if they'd like him to snap the pic for them.  It's beautiful, in a pay-it-forward sort of way.  And, I noticed it because, (1) Summer Glau wasn't riding her beach cruiser on Pacific Coast Highway right next to me in her tights (again! ... kidding), and (2) because I didn't make myself the center of the world for just a scintilla of a moment.  For that minute, I loved that surfer punk and his wet hair and his beat-up VW van and his little dog running around all crazy and that family on vacation loving their moment in the sun.  Basking in their happiness.
E. Spalding
Music is beautiful, and sometimes made by drop-dead gorgeous divas.  I listen to it when I write my screenplays to put me in a frame of mind.  My boys and I listen to wonderful CCM when we're going to church on Sunday mornings to help prepare our hearts. And, then we listen to alt-rock when we're heading back home afterwards, cranked up to "11" to embrace the rest of the day of rest (nod to Spinal Tap re: the 11 on the dial).  I know I've written (and other blogger friends have featured) Esperanza Spalding before, but she's representative of really great music that's not very well known.  I love the jazz standards, like (Click the orange for a listen, btw!) In a Sentimental Mood (Duke Ellington w/ John Coltrane) or the rarely listened to Manoir de Mes Reves (Django Reinhardt), and, well, insert here your fave.  I know this isn't a stretch, but here's one for you:  go to a concert this summer.  Make the time.  Go to a concert in the park.  See your local orchestra.  Bring some good wine and a picnic basket and just take a moment to listen and to be ... in the moment with your loved ones.  Beautiful, baby.

05 July 2011

The Terminal ... perfect metaphor for hell

Sitting at American at LAX waiting to fly out to Austin.  As a semi-frequent flier, you'd think I'd be used to getting bumped from a flight every now and then, and that it wouldn't bother me.  But, i'm not and it does.  Well, a quick clarification.  It bothers me not a little when I'm treated like some fungible commodity or airline detritus to be bumped and tossed aside and into the great (and getting greater) pissed-off queue where quite a few American Airlines fliers have been going these days.

Sitting with me today is Owen Wilson; he just walked into the Gate 45 area and sat down directly across from me.  Hmmm.   Not sure why he's not up in the Admiral's Club (or whatever they're calling it these days), but he's rockin' his Reebok gym bag, and no one's recognizing him or bothering him.

Now, here's the odd thing:  my brother-in-law was the founding drummer of Black Flag, the early punk band.  This morning (oh, about 7 hours ago!), Henry Rollins, the former lead singer of Black Flag (after my brother-in-law left the band) was sitting in the EXACT same chair as Owen Wlson.  Too funny.  And, because I'm in Terminal Hell, I was alive and well to witness one of entertainment's minor concidences.  Btw, these two alums (Mr. Rollins and my sister's hubby) from what is arguably the greatest or most punkiest band of all time just met at the NAMM show this year.  Too school for cool, as I always say to my boys.

Sending you all bon voyage and good traveler wishes (journey mercies!), Dear Reader, so that you don't have domestic peregrinations keeping you from your destinations.  Mine's Austin ... and I'll be there about 9 hours late.  Fat, sausage-like fingers crossed that my luggage is waiting for me in Austin!


25 June 2011

this appointment with disappointment

separate lives.  river splits the two, the two versions of ourselves.  you know.

over there all verdant where a canopy of contentment stands over manicured yards and money raining down all timely and whatnot.  a rive gauche for the accomplished who sleep sweetly and love deeply and things are straight and teeth perfect and none need hindsight.  a life we think better that actually exists.

makes me think of

these separate lives. of ours.  well mine.  from the ole here now.  not just about means or money or status, but the disconnect of knowing and faith, from still hoping and just dreaming. my feet banked with acceptance rather than disappointment. still swinging for dimly lit, rippling dreams, still reaching and learning.

makes me realize finally

that over there begins, you know, over here.

18 June 2011

Father's Day 2011

Father’s Day 2011

Every Father’s Day, we dads go through a tortured exercise of cognitive dissonance.  On the one hand we love that our impressive brood have thought enough of dear old dad to point chubby little fingers at some object, like say a rep tie or a talking/singing 5-pound bass mounted on a plaque for mom to buy for us.  Outstanding!  Well done wee little one.  The dread comes when adding said sweater or socks or cravat to our rather substantial and growing (each June!) collection.

Submitted for your approval, a proposed moratorium on the “point and purchase” routine on behalf of all conflicted dads for Father’s Day.  What follows then is a list of several objects of desire, and a few everyday (totally preapproved as cool) knickknacks that will make your old man’s day come Sunday.

Peddles Make the Man (lose his gut) – eBike by Kalkhoff

Want to do something about that growing girth?  Want to join the ranks of the green movement?  This eBike will help you do both in comfort and style.  The Kalkhoff Pro Connect, built for stability with suspension forks up front and a slightly longish wheelbase, will help dad rock his summer suit in comfort whilst peddling from home to office with as little stress as possible.  Riders are offered 50 to 200 percent peddle-assist thanks to a 300-watt motor.  And with 27 gear combinations, the old man will be able to tackle even the steepest of climbs with butt firmly planted in the saddle (no need to stand up and sweat those streets of San Francisco!).  Dad will love this eBike with its onboard computer, speedometer, and LCD display, not to mention headlights and taillights and very generous battery life.  He might even wear the tie the kids gave him last year on its inaugural ride.

Headphones to Soothe the Beasty Austin to LAX Commute

When our iPhone earbuds finally wear down (after the cat has chewed on them, and the kids have borrowed them for the 100th time) it’s time for an upgrade.  And, if you’re looking for a gift we’ll appreciate immediately, then here are two price-points for our listening pleasure:
·         Klipsch Image S4

The Klipsch is a terrifically priced alternative to what we really want, the Bose Comfort 3 headphones (more on them in just a sec).  They can be found at Amazon for $79, and they sound great.  Truly.  Silver and black, they come packaged in a Altoid-like silver tin, and are one of CNET’s Editor’s Choices for this category.  Can’t go wrong here.

·         Bose Quiet Comfort 3
The latest iteration of this line of best-in-class headphones from Bose works on so many levels.  They are not cheap at $349 to be sure, but they are noise-cancelling, sound great, and if we amortize the $1 headphone rental from United Airlines, by the time we’re 75 we’ll have paid for them.  The headphones fit the contour of the ear, and the cord can be unplugged so that we can use them as a standalone noise reduction without music. 

It’s retro, loud and goes fast!
·         Triumph Scrambler

Okay, okay, this one is not your everyday Father’s Day gift.  But, in every generation, there is an atavistic and very male impulse to ride the hog, throw rooster tails, and take to a cross-country jaunt on a Ducati or Gold Wing.  It all started with Steve McQueen in “The Great Escape” jumping 15 foot high fences and then his brief appearance in “On Any Sunday.”  Dude was cool … and he rode a Triumph.  And now this retro ride is back and we can all be cool for only $8,800. 

The Life of Riley

·         Chukka Desert Boots

You know it when you see it: style.  Am I right?  When a dad rocks a certain elan, people notice, whether he be 27 or 77.  The desert or chukka boot is style incarnate definitely boosts the typical male’s game.  These boots are understated but noticeable.  Men envy the bloke that rocks his chukkas with a casual summer suit with aplomb.  Women notice the man pairing his desert boot with his favorite jeans.  Throw a chambray shirt on with a linen jacket and you’ve got a nice Father’s Day ensemble for church, then afternoon bbq, and maybe even a movie if dad can keep from taking his siesta.

What time is it?  Oh, let me check my watch ...

·         Bremont Chronograph

These days, a man’s watch says as much about him as the car he drives.  But, let’s not go overboard, shall we?  I mean, five figures on a watch?  If you’re going to spend a few thousand on a nice watch, just be sure that you have a son or grandson to leave it to.

The two brothers (Nick and Giles English) that own the watch company Bremont swear they named their watch co. after the gentleman whose field that crash-landed their airplane into (on?).   As someone who has named or branded companies and products, I have to say, that’s a pretty good one.    Maybe even better than LuxeMont.

Happy Father’s Day, y’all.


12 June 2011

Back in Black ... Hat Tip to AC/DC

Well, good news and bad/sad news.

Better judgement and depleted cash reserves forced my hand to jump back into the corporate world.  So, with God's help, I've decided to partner with a large consulting group up in San Francisco.  Some of you may have remembered that I was making my way up to San Francisco a few times the past month or so (where I ran, almost literally, into Michael Chabon at SFO) to meet with their CxO for an interview.  After a week of intense training (read, indoctrination), I have seen and gleaned that this corporate culture will be VERY metrics-based, micro-managed, and looking for one thing: viz., can you close a large deal.  I've got nothing to lose and everything to gain, so we have agreed to take this business relationship on a test drive.  I'll be reaching out to many (many) large Fortune 500 type companies (some that I've closed large seven-figure deals with) within the next 90 days to see how my new company (and bosses ... sounds weird after two years with none) might be able to help them.  Btw, this new company is THE leader in like a dozen or so sectors, and have the reputation for sipping their own champagne.  Yes, their accolades are deserved, but this will be a challenging new venture.  But, one that has benefits (I've been hiding the teeth of a hobo the last two years) and a nice (very nice) salary.  So, although I might be back in the black in terms of a paycheck, I'm still very much in debt with law school loans and several things are requiring a large wealth-creating event in my life.  But, I'm trusting (always!) that hard work and a perspective change by yours truly will be rewarded and that God will bless, Dear Reader!

To square-up the circle regarding my company that I started with my business partner two years back, it is now up to 35 clients, and we met a few months ago with the top entertainment attorney in the country in our space.  He asked us to consider pushing our clients over to him and we have to work out the details.  Keep you in the loop on how that goes.  I met two weeks ago with a very senior editor at one of Hollywood's top two publications in America who asked permission to interview me for an article about what we do and about who our representative clients are.  If I told you the folks we signed, you would instantly recognize them, they've sold hundreds of millions of records.  Anyway, not sure about the interview.  I'm definitely trying to keep my head below the radar, but, oh, I dunno.  Maybe it's time I just go for it.

Our main issue in the business was securing the millions we needed to hire 15 or so others (mostly attorney types) to sign yet more top-selling artists per our business plan.  So, after meeting with three (3), count 'em three billionaires with hat in hand and business plan at-the-ready, we found out that Congress was about to change the law (we hope!) in our favor.  Bottom line?  When investors see a change brewing in the law regarding a business they might plunk down $5 million - $7 million for, well, they like a bit of additional due diligence time.  Which is where we're at ... and I can't afford to wait.  Time to move on.  I think it will all work out though.  Btw, above is a pic from the private SoHo House in the building of one of our bigger clients.  Dig this place in the UK (by reputation), and now we anglophiles have another place above our pay-grade here in L.A. as well.  ;)

So, Friday.  I'm at SFO again, heading back to L.A., and in walking next to me to catch my flight at gate 69 at United was James Cameron (Avatar, Titanic).  He was with a woman I didn't recognize, and I was surprised he was hopping on a United Airlines flight.  (I guess even an almost-billionaire rides commercial!)  Aboard the plane, I worked on a script that I dropped for almost two months as life crashed-in around me, and really found it so refreshing to write because I love the story I'm working, and where these characters are going.  I will finish this before summer ends.  Btw, the last two weeks my son has been in baseball playoffs.  One of his teammate's grandfather always attended the games as well (we'd known each other for a few years), and he and I would constantly talk about the business.  He was a President at Paramount for like 20 years, and a legend with a star on the walk of fame.  He's retired and a really old-school cat with people asking (and paying) him for advice.  Made watching (sometimes) boring baseball much more fun to watch.  He asked me to consider raising some money for a vanity project of his.  Not sure if that'll work out presently b/c one too many irons are definitely in the fire.  Gotta focus on my new position and see how this goes.  But, nice to be asked, you know?

Anyway, Father's Day is coming up, so I'm posting tomorrow my LuxeMont article for suggested purchases for the old man in your kid's life.  (Don't judge me if they come across as very aspirational!  LuxeMont and JustLuxe is very high-end afterall.)

Have a great week, y'all ...

23 May 2011

Floating Over Metropolis on Gossamer Wings

Eurocopter and Mercedes-Benz Give Birth to the Luxury Helicopter in Geneva

Once upon a time, German engineers of the Bauhaus and modernist design movement imagined a world of silvery zeppelin floating magically aloft, ferrying smartly dressed luxury passengers to and fro successful business meetings in the city or family trips to the Alps.  Enter the EC145, modern lovechild of Mercedes-Benz and Eurocopter, bringing the gossamer airship dreams of their forebears one-step closer to Teutonic reality.

Wrapped in iconic Mercedes-Benz silver, with tinted windows to keep the pesky paparazzi at bay, the EC145 is luxury cabin down below and flight muscle up top with a twin-engine turbine power plant providing passengers with cruising speed of 150mph (and top-speed believed to be around 170mph).  It's also believed to be able to travel 300 nautical miles without refueling. 

But, this aircraft is first and foremost all about the luxury, what any right-minded billionaire executive or superstar athlete or pampered rockstar needs to get them from their G550 parked in a hangar in Nice Côte d'Azur Airport over to their awaiting mega yacht anchored miles away in Cannes.   Upscale styling of the EC145 comes courtesy of Mercedes-Benz’s Advanced Design Studio out of Como, Italy, options and customization aplenty.   Sumptuous seating of the finest material for up to 8 passengers is available, with wood flooring and stately trim throughout the cabin bathed in ambient lighting of various colors and brightness.

The EC145, first premiered in Geneva,  also offers 15” HD touch screen monitor, a fridge to chill the Dom for après ski, and configurable seating arrangement allowing for more or less storage in the rear of the aircraft depending upon surfboards, bikes, golf clubs and the like.  If more storage is needed, seating in the spacious cabin can be adjusted down to seat four passengers.   

16 May 2011

Paul Smith: British Designer Admired by This American

Most Successful British Designer Wouldn't Get Recognized in America 
Sir Paul Smith, Westbourne House
When I was a young pup in college, I dated a rather comely, totally in-the-know (a little too in the know in some respects if you catch my drift) young woman.  She and I were fast becoming "of the" and finding our way "in the" world; you know, deciding what things we were going to reject from our betters, and appreciating what we thought was important, and even learning what we liked doing with our free-time.  

Part of this transmogrification included the personal fashion styles we aspired to, which ultimately meant we were growing apart faster than a NASA shuttle being launched from Cape Canaveral leaves behind its temporary mooring.  She the fiery and fleeing temptress, I the temporary stabling force.  For awhile there, right near the end of our six or seven years together, she grew into a club kid looking for the next party wearing her outfits with leg warmers and gold belts and brightly colored skirts and pants, and I remained the boring (mooring) boyfriend, digging my trad style, even rocking several bow ties at various weddings and proper events. 

I can remember one night where she was so embarrassed by my sartorial display at her company dinner, that she actually asked me to (the horror) take off my bow tie because I looked like a waiter.  Classic line.  I actually laughed, but knew that we were done.  Within six months, we were broken up.  I then, the dutiful dumpee, dropped out of undergrad for almost a year, and then dropped about three grand adding some new additions to my wardrobe which would include Willie Smith (Willie Wear), Perry Ellis, Calvin Klein, "creepers" and Doc Martins, Armani, and even some Tommy Hilfiger.  I grew my hair long, and then found myself back in school, living with three girlfriends from high school, and trying to figure things out anew and by myself, the way it should be.

But, this lovely ex-girlfriend did add two things of lasting genius and import to my life down in Malibu one fine afternoon.  It was my 20th birthday, and she gave me a brand new book by Michael Chabon (who, some of you may recall, would become my favorite author ever, and whom I just happened to run into, almost literally, at SFO airport this past Thursday afternoon as I was running to gate 90) his master's thesis-cum-future novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh.  This petite beauty also gave me a skillfully tailored, blue-striped Paul Smith collared shirt. Never had I owned any shirt like it before.  I felt like an adult wearing it.  An adult with fine taste.

We sat there enjoying a nice lunch in the shade, and I was a bit amped because I had just met Ben Stein for the second time (he was teaching at Pepperdine), whose writing and voice I'd always admired, and I was with my gal, and we were happy and had nothing but the future in front of us.  Well, at least a few more months.  By the bye, I still have to share with you, Dear Reader, how Mr. Stein encouraged me to go to law school.  But, that's for another post.  

So, Paul Smith and his style and influence and expensive clothing.  I wore that shirt of his out.  I mean I even had the cuffs replaced because I didn't want to part with that shirt.  I bought others, but that one was special.  Within the last couple of years Paul Smith (GQ’s multi-winning designer-of-the-year) has opened shops in Los Angeles and San Francisco, hoping to finally crack that American market.  Each of these buildings reflects an architectural through-line back to Paul Smith himself: colorful, drawing influences from sport, history, art, pop-culture or modern architecture.  Paul Smith the brand continues to open stand-alone shops throughout the world, including this past month with a new 3-story flagship in Seoul, South Korea, featuring Paul Smith’s personal art collection on its walls.

British designer Paul Smith is not a household name in America; not yet I don't think.  I mean you probably know him.  I know him.  But, whereas the average Joe or Jill American can recognize Armani or Tommy or Calvin ... Paul?  Not so much.  And that bothers me.  

Where the French have always had a reputation for women’s fashion, it is the Brits, well, London’s Savile Row specifically, that has the well-earned reputation for turning out men in bespoke suits, fitting the country’s elite and sophisticated and, yes,  the wealthy in clothes that definitely make the man.

But, truth be told, these companies churning out high-end men’s fashion haven’t been “British” in the strictest sense for decades; they can be, and are often, owned by multinational corporations headquartered in France, Italy or Japan.   The designers, and their sense of style, most assuredly rock a British idiom that push past typical Savile Row boundaries, leaving the shores of England as fast as any Virgin airlines jet can whisk them away. 

The globalization of British men’s and women’s fashion is certainly alive and well from Asia through to America, with the likes of British (and award-winning) designers like Christopher Bailey (Burberry), John Galliano (Dior), and recently departed Alexander McQueen influencing the way men and woman are dressing.

Bringing us back to the iconic British designer Paul Smith, who is arguably the most successful designer in British history.   Knighted by the Queen in 2000, Paul Smith’s fashion strengths have always played to a man’s sensibility: well-made clothing with just a touch of unique style as seen in his signature multicolored stripes.   Sir Paul’s fashion house, still independently owned, supposedly has revenues now past $600 million from 48 different countries, including 12 different men’s and women’s lines, licensing and limited edition deals with Evian water, cameras, Cross pens, Barneys New York, luggage, furniture, skis,  and the list and revenues go on (and on).

In his book Paul Smith: you can find inspiration in everything (2003), author Sir Paul says that we should seek to be childlike, not childish; and that the key to staying inspired is to see and to think about the world horizontally, where we can find inspiration from all of the things around us (not other designers).  As Paul Smith expansion continues around the globe, his personal inspiration is sure to follow.  Now, if I just had that blue stripped shirt back.

13 May 2011

Range Rover Evoque ... Marks New Epoque?

Range Rover Evoque
After 40 years of service to Queen and country with the Range Rover label, Land Rover under its new ownership (Tata Motors) is introducing an SUV scion to a new generation of loyalists and skeptics alike.  Out with the urbane and “British green” trad and in with a rockin’ red-hued urban transpo that Land Rover hopes is the new must-have crossover ride.

Introduced last year at Kensington Palace with high-octane music bumping through loudspeakers and paparazzi flashes, the Land Rover LRX concept car was realized and presented to the world’s media --with a little help from fashion designer (and footballer's wife and former Spice Girl) Victoria Beckham -- as the new Range Rover Evoque, retaining its conceptualized design all the way through to production.

The model name says it all: Evoque, the ‘que’ continental spelling evokes the European driver’s wont for smaller car platforms, better mileage and the ability to drive and park on any major European city street, viz., London, Milan or Paris.  The park assist parallel parking system on the Evoque is sans pareil, slotting the driver into the smallest of spaces with equidistant perfection.  The name also hearkens back to the grand heritage of the nameplate, Range Rover -- a badge not given or worn lightly.

The Evoque comes in both 3-door coupe or 5-door versions.  Both cars have an aggressive design, with lines that give the Evoque the appearance of moving even while sitting still.  The headlamps up front wrap to an almost teardrop shape (it's as if Ms. Beckham helped the Evoque with its eyeliner), and the imagery continues with window-lines that sweep narrow to the rear.   This model seems to defy tradition and the snob, while seeking to attract the upwardly mobile American or the British yob.

To help keep this 4-cylinder moving, Land Rover designers have added a turbocharger and have lightened the load considerably using aluminum for the body, making the crossover 35% lighter than the upperclassman Range Rover Sport.   But, don’t let the small footprint fool you; there is more clearance on the Evoque than on the Land Rover LR2 as well.   The Evoque attempts and succeeds in establishing an urban city design, while maintaining its off-road street cred.

The Range Rover Evoque most likely will compete directly in this market segment with the BMW X3, Volvo XC60, the Audi Q5 and the Lincoln MkX.  But, with a base price rumored to be about $45,000, the car will clearly price some buyers out, while becoming the entry vehicle for other drivers desiring an “affordable” Range Rover.  This crossover ute really may be the vehicle to help aspirational owners finally “crossover” into the luxury brand, marking a new époque for the Range Rover Evoque ... that is until sister company Jaguar releases their version of the crossover rumored to be happening sometime around 2013.

what i'm loving today ...

James Murdoch  (Wired.com)
I have had a (business)man's crush on James Murdoch from afar for about ten years now, i.e., I have seen him move from New York to England, from News Corp to B-Sky-B, changing roles but proving himself all-the-while with nary a misstep (well, unless you count Myspace.com, which News Corp can't quite get off their books fast enough).   James Murdoch is, in my humble estimation, quite the consummate business pro: articulate when giving a speech; impeccably dressed when presenting and representing his company, peers and family; knowledgeable about his audience and what they want/need to hear.  Finally, he possesses a deep understanding of his industry, able to connect the dots on the big picture whilst wading knee-deep in business metrics and public policies (to thwart) and various ephemera that only a media mogul would appreciate.

Say what you will about News Corp (parent company to Fox News) -- some of you, Dear Reader, have expressed your dissatisfaction in different forums that I've been privy to -- but I personally am a huge fan of News Corp and Fox News and the Wall St. Journal.  They are agents of change for almost every vertical they touch ... and by that, I mean for the better.  More competition.  More consumer choices.  And ... this is key, sometimes better pricing.  While they might have a conservative, big, bad businessman's worldview, the Murdoch family, is anything but conservative.  They may back conservative policies spouted by the typical pro-business Republicans or Tories, but they themselves are a fairly liberal lot personally.  And, that's a pretty interesting cognitive dissonance.  (I'm not complainin', I'm just esplainin'.)  I, however, remain very easy to decipher: conservative politically and personally and with my electricity.

So, here's a story about News Corp trying to buy F1 Racing over at JustLuxe.com that I recently wrote for them.  Check it out if you'd like.  No worries if not.

But, then there's this article I'd love to share/recommend with you from Daily Telegraph about a 60-yr-old woman (Harriet Walter) finally finding true love and jumping into her new marriage wholeheartedly.

I loved the movie It's Complicated because of the wonderful romance and love story (ultimately unrequited) about a couple of older divorcées contemplating a rekindling of their former marriage.  Or, from the same producer (Nancy Meyers ... love her set designs), the classic Something's Gotta Give about a 70-yr-old lothario finally dating a woman near his age range (the lovely Ms. Diane Keaton).

Even before I finally tripped (er, was dragged) over the 40-yr-old timeline a couple of years back, I have always appreciated  and embraced the narrative that evinces a protagonist accepting their age and finding satisfaction (deep satisfaction) in what life or God is teaching them at that moment.  I'm thinking of Ms. Marple (fictional old gals are good too!).  Rush Limbaugh (he couldn't wait to turn 50).  The Queen Mum.  Ronald Reagan.  Sophia Loren.  These personalities all embraced their chronological measurements and brought/bring their hard-earned wisdom to their lives and the lives of those around them.  I for one have benefited from so many of my elders, and I suspect you have as well.

Like my mom always said, bloom where you're planted.  Make lemonade out of lemons.  And, if you find yourself in Depends adult diapers at 78 yrs-old, well then plant whatever in them bloomers ... with gusto gulldernit!  And, make sure to do your water aerobics whilst shaking those flabby arms, baby!  If you flabby, flaunt it!  (Btw, I used to swim at the YMCA near LAX (this should be a song title) ... trust me, you don't know trepidation until you have to swim your 60 laps immediately after a class of 30 or so seniors who have been shaking and jumping to the oldies in your swim lane only 60 seconds prior.)

That's what I'm loving today.

08 May 2011

Marion Cotillard Lady Dior ... and my big fat mouth

Marion Cotillard is one of those actresses that I enjoy in every project she's in.  That's not really saying much considering how talented she is, and how many accolades have been heaped upon her and her CV.  But, still.

In this little clip of her in Dior's campaign for Lady Dior, one gets a glimpse into the brilliant vision that John Galliano had for Dior, and why Bernard Arnault at LVMH paid him handsomely.  Too bad there's a little anti-semite to be found in these talented bastards like Mel Gibson and John Galliano who allow their baser/nastier sides take control of their tongue and spew vile nonsense.  We all have the problem with the tongue.  The apostle James gave the analogy of the diminutive rudder steering and controlling the large ship.  So, too, with our speech.  With it we bless our mothers (Happy Mother's day, y'all!!!) and our God and our brood.  And, with it, we also curse our fellow man.  All of us are guilty of this in some way.

Anyhoo ... back to Marion and those eyes.  I'm not sure what color they are, but they are French, and they are housed in such a lovely punim, and they just kill me.

One thing I enjoy is watching an actor speak their native tongue (again with the tongue, Jg.!).  Ken Watanabe and Marion Cotillard were both in Inception, and hearing them do their interviews for the film in English was nice.  But, to see/hear them speak their native languages of French and Japanese, it seems, to me, that one catches a glimpse into their real personalities.  That their humorous or prankster or sweet sides have more freedom to show themselves to us the viewer.  Do any of you notice that or feel that?  I think I've seen this with Antonio Banderas and Audrey Tautou (and those very kind eyes), and dozens of other actors over the years.

And, speaking of eyes.  I was at "Bean, the Coffee" the other night after dinner with family (we ate next to Frankie Avalon and his lovely bride ... I went to high school with three of his kids), and I stopped to pick up a magazine (for some inspiration) and grab a latte.

It was late, and I was probably the last customer of the night.  The young woman behind the counter was sort of new, but she'd helped me a couple of times before, and she was getting ready to close up shop.  I noticed right away that she had worked her eyes into a dark, smoldering set of peepers.   Now, to be honest, I'm the type of male that "notices" things like that.   You know, when someone at work or a store I frequent, or a neighbor, or someone I date, changes their appearance in some way.  So, my next comment was not meant as some untoward or flirty pickup line.  I just said, hey, "I like the smokey eyes.  They're working."  I threw in a Madonna "Vogue" hand movement across my face to add a little jocularity to the comment.

She sort of chuckled and turned about 3 shades of red.  So, now she was rocking smokey eyes and a lovely natural rouge.  She was so flustered by the compliment, that she prepped my drink (light drip, half-and-half and a  scoop of vanilla powder) and then  forgot to charge me.  When I tried to pay her, she just said, "on the house" and went about her closing duties.  I'm still not sure if she was happy for the compliment or pissed that I said something.  I need to learn that sometimes, just noticing is enough.  I don't need to always open my pie-hole, and sometimes a woman is happy just to have a new stylish hairdo, or some weight-loss, or smokey eyes without some stranger commenting.  Like I said, the tongue can get us all into trouble, whether Mel or Galliano or some FatScribe ordering a little cup o' joe.

06 May 2011

Which Way Tom Ford?

A simple question.  Which way does Mr. Ford really want to go with his career?  I mean, dude is sitting on a couple of hundred million (American), and he did just sell an Andy Warhol for $33 million, and he did just do a fine job helming a nice little indie film.  Tommy from Texas has lots of choices, n'est pas?

Tom Ford walked away from fashion’s pinnacle of success at Gucci and YSL because of what he felt was a stifling environment (gilded, but a cage nonetheless) back in 2004.  After a legendary blow-up and walk-out at Gucci where he was Creative Director for both Gucci and YSL, he’d had enough one afternoon and walked away from a situation that he felt was becoming creatively stifling for him.  (Plus, he was getting nasty little letters from Yves about the YSL direction.)  Whilst there, Tom Ford had taken the house of Gucci from a market cap of $4 billion to over $10 billion, he the man with the touch Midas would envy.

Which brings us forward to the present.   Ford seems more relevant than ever, his name still spoken with reverence and deference after his big comeback in 2010 with his women’s line, and everywhere one turns, there are rumors aplenty regarding the return of this titan of fashion with his own line for men and women, including “secret shows” for his 2011 summer line.  He was even pinned as one of Time Magazine’s 100 with a blurb written by one Rita Hanks.

Tom Ford is busy building his brand and empire.  He has opened flagship stores in New York and Los Angeles.  He has signed licensing deals for eyewear and a beauty brand to build with Esteé Lauder.   Plus, add another hit to Tom Ford’s string of successful launches, this one of the celluloid variety with the independent film, A Single Man, based upon the Isherwood novel of the same.  Directed by Ford with a deft touch, filled with lovely, lithe actors delivering solid lines, draped in fashionable clothing of Ford’s designing, Tom Ford has proven he can crack any industry, except for maybe acting.  But, let’s not count him out just yet on that front.

Tina Brown recently shared with Ford (in a terrific little interview for DailyBeast.com) that Ralph Lauren threatened for years to direct a film, but could never quite pull the trigger on the right project.  To which Tom Ford encouraged Sir Ralph, Lord of the Polo, “Do it, Ralph.  We’re none of us getting any younger.”  Or, something to that effect.  But, what about Tom?  What does he want?

Today, rumors about Tom Ford persist:  They say he’s on the short-list to succeed the officially dismissed Galliano at Dior for LVMH (Sarah Burton seems more likely).  Then there’s everyone’s favorite that the Lord of uber-luxe is collaborating with H&M on an everyman limited line for the retailer (put me on the mailing list for that one).  Except for helming another film -- he is looking for a next project for his production company -- it is doubtful Ford would divide his attentions away from his business at-hand, viz., expanding Tom Ford brand around the globe.   And, of course the ridiculous rumor – that he’s running out of cash. 

As a college student in NY, Tom Ford was friendly with Andy Warhol, and last year Ford did sell-off one of Warhol’s self-portraits (purple-hued) for $33 million.  Net worth of $250 million, Tom Ford most likely sold the Warhol last year to help finance his new women’s line and continue the launch of Tom Ford stores, of which there are currently 21 stand-alone and shop-in shops, with plans to expand to 100 shops within several years.

But, like his creative hero Ralph Lauren, Tom Ford seeks to be a fashion house unto himself.  After all, as he has (in)famously said, “I am my own muse.”   As with any good creative, we can be certain that he’ll never run out of inspiration for his eponymous lines of fashion, perfumes, furniture, beauty products, $35 bars of soap, eyewear and fine footwear anytime soon.

To be frank, I like Mr. Ford’s chances.  If I look at other designers or labels that licensed themselves out of fashion significance (whether selling out for the cash, or by mistake), we see many designers whose lines now litter the clothes bin of history at Nordstrom Rack: Abboud, Perry Ellis, and you too, Calvin Klein.  Not likely, Ford, though.

Like Armani and Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein (okay, we’ll keep you in this group, CK), these fashion houses of distinction take decades to develop.  And, like any good example of compound interest growing over time, a dollop of fashion integrity goes a long way toward the making of not just a fashion superstar, but also a house of fashion (and a bona fide billionaire a few times over) if only the principal will resist the impulse to sell-out.  He can still direct a movie every two or three years, though, as long as he designs the clothes … you know, to build the brand. 

01 May 2011

presidential bookends: from a rubble pile to an east room

a friend of mine called me from atlanta to tell me to turn the tv on; that the president was about to make an important and historic announcement.  for about 20 minutes i had an ache in my stomach waiting and worrying about a development in north korea or a nuclear accident (japan is still on my mind and that nuclear plant) or what?

it never crossed my mind that it could be usama bin laden.

i am not a big believer in hate.  nor am i a warmonger.  i appreciate and respect people of every tongue, nationality and race.  i don't harbor a blood-lust against those whom our country decides or has decided is our enemy, and neither does america.  when the japanese and germans put down their weapons after the second world war, we soon had two of our biggest allies in the world.  hell, after the english stopped the nonsense after the war of 1812, and burning down our capitol, we cemented our special relationship with britain that would hardly be questioned over the next two-hundred years.

but i believe in having our brother's back.  i believe when we're threatened by the worst ideology in this world, a wicked worldview that seeks to kill our innocents at home and abroad, to put us under the yoke of a caliphate or sharia or worse, well, we need to take out the sharpened hoe in the garage and quickly put it to the back of the snake's neck and stop it in its tracks.

when our brothers and sisters, our fellow americans were slaughtered on that fateful day, we owed it to them to take a stand.  almost ten years ago, president bush said from a pile of rubble in new york shouting through a bullhorn:
"i can hear you!  i hear you!  the world hears you.  and the people who knocked these buildings down will hear all of us soon!"
the 44th president picked up that gauntlet and tonight he bookended a bold, hubristic prediction when our president obama said:
"we will be relentless in defense of our citizens and our friends and allies. we will be true to the values that make us who we are. and on nights like this one, we can say to those families who have lost loved ones to al-qaeda's terror: justice has been done"
yes it has, mr. president.  we are all proud of you and your actions putting an american finger on the final pulse and breath of a terrorist and mass-murderer of americans.  now if only we could expect to earn a strong relationship with the countries in that region.  instead, i expect more mothers to be strapping explosives in earnest to their 12-yr-olds and asking for their god's blessing the killing of infidels.

but, for now, mr. president, you deserve the gratitude of your fellow americans.  thank you for your well-wishes to us, and God bless you, too, sir.  and God bless the men and women of all religions of our armed forces who serve our country proudly and pay the ultimate sacrifice for our protection on a daily basis, including this magnificent operation that put a neat button on this messy and justified engagement.

i apologize if some of you find this post offensive, but for me, when a nation finds itself threatened and no longer in a state of civilization, we are in a state of nature and as such, we need the type of keen leadership that president obama provided today: "at my direction" ... the three strongest words of his presidency.

here, some strong words by his predecessor: