Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Lions and Lambs...

So it's February 28th. A strangely truncated month - I always bump into its ending like a glass door. Does February envy the months with 31 days?
Or does it think it's

"Februa" is Latin word with several meanings including "pure" and "fever" as well as being the name for the sexual aspect of Jupiter's jealous and vengeful wife, Juno. In fact, February 15th was the Roman holiday set aside for purification. And being Romans, it quickly became a "spring fever" festival associated with fertility and lovemaking (could that be a Valentine's day tie-in?). For me, February has an association with pure hell. Colds, being cold, itchy clothes, dry skin, cracked lips, too much time indoors, ugly light, depression, and bad school memories. Better here in LA than NY, but still, let's get on with it.

March, or the month of Mars (Ares in Greek mythology), has more going for it. I've always loved that line "March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." I am a big champion of anthropomorphization. Animals are obviously more than just animals - they are deeply symbolic animations of inexpressible human desires and questions about Nature. I believe the animals enjoy their unconscious sway over us and they expect us to humanize them in our efforts to understand their secrets. In a recent New Yorker "Talk of the Town" piece mas-macho actor, Tommy Lee Jones, expressed an opposite opinion. "We have a lot of animals [on our ranch], but there'’s no anthropomorphizing. We don'’t put little ballet dresses on the dogs or kiss them on the mouth. I respect animals. I don'’t insult them." I call bullshit on Tommy Lee Jones. I say a monkey without spats is like a fish without a bicycle. Do these dogs look like they are suffering? Would you deprive your cat of these hats Mr. Jones? Shame on you.

But back to March... Mars was the god of war. The rebellious son of Juno and Jupiter who spent as much time getting it on with Venus as he did on the battlefield. Their tryst pissed of Vulcan who had cherubs ensnare them in a net from which they could not escape. Speaking of war and being ensnared in nets you can't get out of, have you seen the news today. Oh boy...

Monday, February 27, 2006

Your head is humming and it won't go...

Are you a member of the ultra buzzing Tinnitus Club? Do you have either a perceived or an actual high pitched ringing in one or both eardrums that never goes away? If so, then you know all about Hell's Bells, the ones that keep on ringing 24/7, the ones for which there is no cure, the ones that especially plague you in the middle of the night. Previously the ailment of choice for rock stars and fog horn operators, tinnitus threatens to reach epidemic proportions with the iPod generation. Indeed, it is the direct assault of sound coming from headphones that does the most damage, more so than loud noises in open air, which have some degree of buffer to them. Also head injuries are said to contribute. I believe I picked mine up from a combination of hundreds of hours of blasting studio headphone "cans" (from my musical youth) and at least four traumatic blows to my skull (a golf ball thwacked from 100 yards, an iron fire hose nozzle dropped from a fire truck, a heavy punching bag which fell on top of me, and getting kicked in the head repeatedly by Portuguese marines). I've been meaning to sit down with a piano to figure out exactly which notes play in my head, but they are way up there which thankfully makes them easier to ignore (tinnitus in the dog world must be genuinely crippling). There are at least two main notes, and a few much lower notes that come and go quickly (like comets) every so often. There is also a persistent fluttering in my left ear which may or may not be related. The hearing in the right ear is poor as is the sight in my right eye (if you're sitting on my right side at a dinner party, please don't take it personally if you don't get the attention you'd like).

So, am I sounding like a kvetchy grandparent yet? Good, because here's the part where it all turns around and I start sounding like a regular crazy person. I've come to a radical solution regarding tinnitus, and I call it the "Joan of Arc Cure". You see, I have trained myself to think of these grating noises as my muses. Voices from beyond calling me towards some true and obscure destiny. They are here to keep me on path, as if to say: We are the annoying alarm that always sounds to wake you from your temporal slumber. We are a sonic tattoo that reminds you to listen deeply and to persist. We will make you just nauseated enough so that you can not bear any other nausea that might arise from being untrue to yourself or harming others. We are also the relentless mosquitoes that drive you inside - where your greater instincts and creativity lies.

Would I get rid of my tinnitus if I could? You bet. But I'm glad to have had a relatively benign example in my life of how living with adversity can push one beyond the comfort zone ... and off the deep end!?

Sunday, February 26, 2006

RIP Mr. Limpet...

I'm not kidding when I say that Don Knotts was one of the most photogenic people of the 20th C. He was an unspoken touchstone for all of us, and even an Ubermensch of sorts: He singularly defined the ultimate specimen for one particular branch of the human species. His obvious talents aside, I want to honor the man behind that face. When we look in the mirror and we search for clues as to who we might be, what do you think Don Knotts felt deep in his soul? Tonight, hearing of his passing, I think about the quiet solitary moments when a young Don was wrestling with his "funny looking" persona and offering it to the world in an act of near martyrdom. I think of him alone at night as an old man in his chlorinated jacuzzi in San Bernardino or wherever he lived, sipping a drink (no loop-di-loop straw, no buxom blondes stroking his pate) and leaning his tired head back against the edge and just gazing at the stars. What did he feel like then? I wouldn't presume to know, but somehow I doubt it was hilarious.

Bring the ships to shore...

This morning on the phone, my mother says, "You always have so many exciting projects on the horizon..." I thought it was going to be the prelude to some broad, supportive, cheerleader-like remarks, the kind that children want to hear from their parents. But then she goes, "It's a shame they seem to stay on the horizon. I'd like to see at least one of them make its way into the foreground or once." Ouch! Ah Maman... from your mouth to the god's ears. Of course, no matter how deflating such a passing comment can be to my plate-spinning ego, she's right. It's time for the tall ships to come to shore again, and share the rare spices and booty they've gathered from far-flung corners of Potentialdom. Not to say I don't remember past glory days and fat years of splendor and globetrotting. But I've reached a point on my timeline where at least it "feels" like I'm ripe for something substantial to land with the impact of a bowling ball in wet sand. Then again, Bode Miller felt like he was going to win the gold medal and Lawrence Summers felt like he would make a good president of Harvard. I'm sure Charles Manson feels like he'd make a great camp counselor.

Sometimes the universe gives you a shot, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes you get the shot and you blow it. As Jonathan Rhys Meyers says in Match Point, "Of course, hard word is mandatory but what really matters is luck." By the way, I'm convinced that Woody Allen has finally been terrified enough by his own mortality to make a very masterful film that transcends his usual orbiting of his anal region. He still gets away with murder, but at least we learn something vital about human nature in the process.

("Barge Haulers on the Volga" by Ilya Repin, 1872)

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Now you're going places...

Many things just happen. Making things happen is another story. The world is bigger than you are and moves very quickly, so creating a more desirable future in it is going to take a bit of planning and lots of energy. First, you will need a goal. What do you want to achieve? Then you will you'll need a strategy (the big picture, broad plans on achieving your goal), tactics (the detailed step by step plans), and adaptability (your plans must be able to mutate to fit changing circumstances at a moments notice, be like a virus). You can use heuristics to help you make decisions. These are little rules of thumb that help you sort through complex information and keep your attention flowing in the right direction. Remember, all of your actions should always serve to close the gap between your present condition and the desired outcome.
Good luck!

Online Oblique Strategies here.

Friday, February 24, 2006

A nearly dead horse can still beat a dead horse down...

This would be the official announcement from the Sex Pistols regarding their induction into the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame. I suppose this letter will be making the rounds soon enough. But please allow me to coddle your inner Vicious right here and now.

The Fallible Balsamic Vinegar Litmus Test...


I thought I had something all figured out. But now I'm not so sure.

I thought that one surefire way to calculate the relative financial success of an artist or creative person is to make note of what kind of balsamic vinegar they use in their kitchen. You see, artists, often being sensualists with active and evolving tastes, are susceptible to the pleasures of certain outrageously overpriced gourmet items. When times are good, the expensive balsamic vinegar can usually be spotted right there on the window sill or in some cozy kitchen cubby hole. When times are bad, the cheap watered down stuff will do, and hopefully it's not hidden away in some cupboard, for a good creative person should not feel the need to hide their times of struggle. Art and creativity are seldom in line with the ebb and flow of the marketplace.

Now of course, many so-called "gourmet" items are completely bogus. They exist only to plug up the gaping potholes in so many flabby-souled Beverly Hills housewive's lives. But the alert consumer will disregard these red herrings, and with trial and error will eventually discover those products which embody the principal of "you get what you pay for." (And, if you're lucky, you will get some very nicely designed packaging thrown in as a bonus.)

Not to call myself an artist, but I am a good example of this theory in action. In good times, I am partial to Villa Manodori. It is as thick as honey, rich brown-black in color, and not too acidic. It's concentratedness is overwhelmingly evident: One tiny drop on the end of your finger will taste like an entire collapsed galaxy of grape must spreading across your tongue. It goes well on anything from Corn Flakes to ice cream. This stuff runs anywhere from $30-50 a bottle which sounds like a lot but is only a fraction of what you can pay for some of the top shelf "tradizionale" blends. In less good times, I'll pick up any old $4 bottle off the shelf of any supermarket. And ironically, I will enjoy the cheap stuff almost as much. There is something absolutely essential and humanizing about scaling back, making sacrifices, and going through periods where your senses are deprived of material finery. That's not an original thought, true, but in my experience it remains a key to retaining some kind of perspective that is relevant in and to the world at large.

But I digress. Like wine or olives, the varieties and qualities of balsamic vinegars runs the gamut. It is produced from the concentrated juice ("must") of white grapes (typically, trebbiano grapes) that has been boiled down to approximately 50% of its original volume, and fermenting that into alcohol. This is then once again fermented to balsamic vinegar, with a slow aging process that concentrates the flavors. The flavor is intensified over decades, with the vinegar being kept in fine wooden casks, becoming sweet, viscous and very concentrated in flavor. The finest and most traditional balsamic vinegar is very labor-intensive to produce; while it ages and gradually evaporates, the liquid is transferred to successively smaller casks made of different woods, absorbing the flavor characteristics of each wood and becoming more concentrated with each transfer. Oak, mulberry, chestnut, cherry, juniper, and ash are the most commonly used woods. Some older balsamic vinegar is added to the "must" to create a more complex and intricate taste, and to add acidity. Continue reading this plagarized wikipedia entry here.

In conclusion, my Balsamic Vinegar Theory doesn't really work. Many artists and creative types are not the material sensualists you might want or expect them to be. In fact, many will champion the cheap wine they drink and the generic cigarettes they smoke as a token of authenticity or independence. Or many simply have learned to do without anything but the most basic material needs. So maybe vinegar is not the ideal barometer for creative success. Maybe there's no need for such thing. But, I do suspect that everyone on a fluxuating income has that one luxury item or indulgeance that they will only partake in when the coffers are full.

Thursday, February 23, 2006


Yep. Ran out of gas last night. Guess where… Right in front of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

Embarrassing, sure.
But not bad.

Normally, of course, this kind of situation would make me nuts. I’m generally convinced that the universe sends us signals on how we’re doing. In other words, if you keep getting your buttons misaligned with your buttonholes, or you keep burning the toast in the toaster, it is somehow indicative that the universe disapproves of your current situation. You are off track. Your free will is getting in the way of your destiny. Time to step back and take a long cool look at yourself, rev up the engines and blast yourself to a different, perhaps higher, realm of being. Normally, I say.

But lately there is a giddiness. A firm sense of being in the right place, regardless of the signals. At any other time in my life, running out of gas would seem like a foreboding metaphor, a gargantuan buzz kill that would grind acidy compounds in the gristmill pit of my stomach. I would quietly beat myself up with scolding cries of, “Why?, How?, Now look what you’ve done,” and so on… But strangely, that’s all gone. I somehow took enormous pleasure in this experience. The opposite of routine. The what is not supposed to happen. A tiny piece of chaos dipped in chocolate. Look at the font on that hand scribbled note to roving meter maids. Does that seem like the font of a man who is beating himself up?

Either I am finally experiencing some benefit from years of holding out, sticking to my guns, not becoming a battery to be drained of its power and tossed aside by the marketplace, understanding my jerry-rigged Gazpachot machine and its quirky processes, being with people I love and who inspire me… Either I am some form of happy, or just as likely amigos, I’m afraid my cheese has completely slid off of the old cracker. Either way, things are bound to get more interesting from here on out, so stick around.

(photo by Paul Gachot)

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Get Your Conspiracies On...


Six US Ports to be turned over to United Arab Emirates maritime management firm Dubai Ports World (btw, DP World- what's the innuendo with that name?). Bush threatens to veto any bill that blocks the deal. Which “deal” would that be Mr. President? While we're on this topic, isn't it funny how it's ok for America to dominate countless industries throughout the globe, but God forbid that there should ever be a flipside to that coin.

Modified Atmosphere Packaging: Carbon Monoxide spiked meat will stay a nice bloody cherry red on shelves for anywhere from 5- 40 days. Retailers were loosing money as the meat turned brown. Meanwhile, eight workers at a Nebraska meat processing plant have claimed a record $365M Powerball jackpot. Coincidence? or Pay off! You connect the dots...

Should the identical twin of someone who works in a high profile, extremely dangerous, or politically sensitive job be subject to security screenings and fingerprinting? It doesn'’t happen now, but it did lead to trouble in a dream I had… seriously, I know the old twin-swapping racket was exposed in both versions of "The Parent Trap," but are we 100% satisfied with that alone as a preventative measure to future chicanery?

Lips: Is this the supersized mouth era or what? Saw "Narnia:The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe" last night and the only person without a kisser that looked like two banana slugs mating was Tilde Swinton as the frigid and ee-veel white witch Jadis. Look around. Read the lips. Is it safe to say that a person’s relative goodness can be measured by the fullness of their pout? Will Angelina Jolie and Scarlett Johansson team up to topple thin-lippers Bush and Cheney and become America’s long-awaited, bee-stung mouthpiece? Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

What do People Do all Day?

Strange exalted dreams last night. In one, a mysterious and vaporous supreme being was explaining to me why I used to have so many dreams of running in slow motion as a child (which is true). "These dreams," said the figure, "were important voices trying to make you aware that you carry with you not just a body, not just a soul, not even all of planet Earth, but all of the entire universe with you where ever you go. And that is a lot to carry." No wonder I wake up exhausted. So what am I telling myself here? I guess that our individuality is at least, in part, an illusion. As the great philosophers Crosby, Stills and Nash once posited: We are stardust.

In another part of the dream, I saw something spray-painted on a white brick wall: "God=Cause, Beings & Things=Effects". It sort of kept changing, as things in dreams do, but that is the formula my memory wants to recall. What a cool equation, and how random for me - someone who still has to add numbers with my fingers. I guess it's less mathematical and more of an abstraction. Let me see if I can unpack this stuff some more. Indulge me today, I've got bills galore to pay.

Dreams are great, but it's tough to make a living off of them. Storytelling, mythmaking, songwriting, artmaking, and so on... these are the best and most valuable jobs in my opinion. Why? Because they bravely occupy the rich and turbulent DMZ that straddles conscious living and the unconscious "imponderables" (the stuff us simply ignore even though we lug it around with us all the time.) These jobs drag the content and grammar of dreaming into waking life. The stuff of night held out in the cold light of day. These jobs own up to the limits of our consciousness, they stare into the blind spots and try to come up with analogies and metaphors for the strange feelings this staring invokes. Isn't it paradoxical that in our yearning to understand God or gods or the universe, our efforts are ultimately blocked by the capacity of our brains - the very organs through which our understanding must be accomplished? We need to make up stories in order to fit these concepts into our sense of valid experience. Our contact with life and death and everything in between must be indirect. Outside experience must be filtered through the perceptions of our senses and our consciousness and dressed up in familiar clothing in order to register.

In our world, artists, writers, filmmakers, storytellers, and to some extent the media are the ones who dress experience, who filter and reprocess overwhelming concepts into our terrestrial bound work-a-day lives. These are the people who work to draw the mind out beyond itself, beyond the facts and figures, beyond human logic, beyond our emergencies and to-do lists. By drawing our attention upwards towards things more mighty and awesome than ourselves, we (ironically) set a template for the god within. It is a trick of sorts that shocks and awakens our soul and conscience towards some kind of life force. Love and Death. Energy and dissolution. God and Beings. Cause and Effect. Rent and Taxes. Ugh. OK, enough... back to work...

(more on Richard Scarry here)

Monday, February 20, 2006

Long Live the King...

I wanted to say something serious today, but honestly, I just can't get past this... thanks Joe Seigenthaler. Thanks a lot...

Sunday, February 19, 2006


Still no signs of life from the LBB (little brown bird) that smashed into the bedroom window yesterday morning while trying to escape the rain. I'll keep you posted... I used to know an eccentric older woman who claimed to bring dead birds back to life by holding them against her chest, but I think I've lost her number.

(photo by Paul Gachot)

Saturday, February 18, 2006

Germ Warfare...

So, it's February. There's a good chance no matter where you are, that someone around you has sneezed or breathed on you or touched something you've touched, and so there may come that awful moment where, suddenly, you know that your immune system has been compromised and some stranger has given you the gift of the flu. Perhaps it's the tickle in the back of your throat, maybe your muscles ache, maybe you get the chills, maybe your hair hurts when you get out of bed. Before you even consider going to the doctor, or engaging in revenge fantasies, you should drop everything and immediately buy yourself one of the homeopathic remedies that are readily available at Whole Foods, Rite Aids and other such places.

I fully understand that everyone has their own system of dealing with the onset of a cold. I offer mine here along with my track record for '05/'06: 0 colds 0 flus (the wood is being knocked as I type). As a connoisseur of herbal remedies and preventative medicine, I can tell you that, by far, the best of the lot is Wellness Formula. Sure you can dabble in the playful fizz of Airborne, or you can be seduced by the brilliant packaging and sweet sub-labial pellets of Boiron's Oscillococcinum, but I'm telling you nothing out there is going to get in there and fight for you like the Wellness Formula. Don't mind the vaguely Kubrickian package design, just tear open the bottle and down three tablets as fast as you can. Supplement with lots of citrus juice and echinacea & goldenseal drops.

People get all cute about how the way you sneeze defines your character, but I'm not amused. Would you go digging around the insides of someone else's nose, mouth and windpipe? Of course not, but this is basically what you are allowing to happen when someone sneezes in the same room as you. Worse, that mess is being flung at you at speeds of one hundred miles per hour. I'm not trying to make you ill, I'm trying to make you healthy! If you absolutely must... here is the proper way to deal with a sneeze. Above all do not sneeze into your hands. And don't even think of offering that tainted hand for a handshake you evil person...

Yes, Gazpachot is a germophobe. I hate getting sick with a ferocity usually reserved for far more passionate causes. Sarah will tell you all about the very bad way I deal with public sneezing, sniffly waiters, coughing Fed Ex guys, children with wet noses, etc. In fact, I've been dying to do a really good PSA for TV and Radio on the subject of sneeze etiquette. This could be my great offering to the world. I could assemble pop stars and world leaders in a germ-free recording studio in Antarctica to sing about the horrors of sneezing.

By the way: When one sneezes in a Muslim country, one should say ALHAMDULILLAH. In reply to this, one who witnesses the sneeze should say YARHAMU KALLAH. The person who has sneezed must reply by saying: YAHDEE KUMULLAHU WAYUSLIHU BAALAKUM.

Also, there is no verbal reply to a sneeze in Japan. It is more of a Western superstition that sneezing "blows out your soul" and requires a blessing from God. However, the Japanese do believe that when you sneeze it means that someone is talking about you.

Check this out too, filthy hands.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Los Dopple Gangers...

Officially... Michael Chertoff is now more Perry Farrell than Perry Farrell.

Where that leaves Ming the Merciless is anyone's guess.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Beer Goggles...

Not to belabor this matter, but I find it interesting that an article at MSNBC's website was edited to remove references to alcohol consumption which reportedly preceded the accidental shooting of a 78-year-old lawyer by Vice President Cheney last Saturday. Strangely, this comes after DC admited to having "a beer" prior to the shoot. I remember a time or two in college when admitting to having "a beer" was a sheepish way of saying, "I lost count, I couldn't see straight". But that's just me. OK, onward...

(photo by Donna Trope)

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Travel: Iriomote Island...

Long been fascinated by Okinawa Prefecture. Never been. So take all this with a pinch of salt. Often, the yearning for a place you haven't been far exceeds the reality of going. But of course you won't know until you go. Tricky...

This pristine chain of 100+ islands off the southern tip of Japan is actually a giant system of ancient coral reefs built upon more ancient coral reefs, and so on, which have slowly silted up, solidified, and broken the ocean surface. As rain has trickled through the coral over the millennia, spectacular caves and catacombs have been carved throughout the islands which are grouped into many smaller archipelagoes. Some of the world's most unique flora and fauna live here, not to mention a disproportionate number of happy and healthy human centarians (enough to make those bogus Georgian yogurt-eaters stop dancing in the mountains). The year-round tropical climate, the beautiful beaches, the abundance of seafood and the tiny population have made these rough islands a sort of paradise to a handful of resourceful communities. The famously laid-back and welcoming Okinowan spirit is known as "icharibachode" which means, "once met, we are as brothers." These aren't hippies mind you, this is also the birthplace of karate. Okinawan joy and peacefulness is actually a radical attitude in Japan, one that brings many a visiting "sallaryman" to their knees, weeping with remorse at the thought of their miserable, worker-bee life back on the mainland.

But... it is the island of Iriomote that is most alluring of all. This 100 square mile island is virtually surrounded by a billowing curtain of poisonous jellyfish breeding grounds as well as a host of other nasty stinging and biting sea creatures. The island is often referred to as the "Galapagos of Japan", because of its rich swampy mangrove woods, criss-crossing rivers, and unique animal life (including sea turtles). Many come here in search of the almost impossible to find Hoshisuna or "Star Sand Beach," so beautiful that no dares go swimming in its warm shallow waters filled with tiny star-shaped shells (can you picture that restraint anywhere else?).

But... the greatest draw on remote Iriomote is the Iriomote Cat; aka: Prionailurus iriomotensis; aka: the elusive cat-god of Yameneko Mountain. This small nocturnal wildcat is only found here, and is considered by some to be its own species. There are estimated to be only about 100 Iriomote Cats on the island making it one of the rarest felines in existence. Japanese mythology has it that after a cat dies it goes to Yameneko Mountain. Here, as tiny cat-gods, they watch and protect all the living cats on earth and are known to lure evil masters to the island where they are promptly charmed to sleep and then devoured by special ghost cats. It's a better way to go than getting lost in jellyfish curtains, I guess.

But... if that's note enough for you, there's always nearby Yubu Island, just off of Iriomote's east coast, accessible on carts pulled through the shallow waters by water buffalo up into the hills. Here you will find a tropical fruit orchard and rustic restaurant. You can also walk to Yubu when the tide is low (5 mins through ankle-high water).


Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Me and my monkey...

...waiting on my lady.
Have a nice Valentine's Day.

(apologies to the great Pieter Hugo)

Monday, February 13, 2006

Dick Cheney is ok...

Good news America... The Vice President is ok. His buddies might be riddled with buckshot, his government might be corrupt, his country might be sliding down the tubes, but rest assured Dick Cheney is fine. But is "Number 2" a klutz or a sadist? Does one in his position really shoot someone by accident or "by accident" (and take more than 24 hours to reveal said "accident"). Why is it all too easy to picture a non-compliant "campaign contributer" lying on the forest floor, bleeding all over his parka, and Cheney leaning over him, smoking gun in hand, whispering "Next time it's your head Harry..." On the other hand, if it is just an accident, how secure should we feel? Isn't this the man proposing that nuclear energy is the solution to our addiction to oil? Thank God it's Bushie who carries the football. At least he's not too accident prone.

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Eastern Columbia Building...

Walking by the Eastern Columbia building in Downtown LA last night and falling in love with it for the one thousandth time. Even in the dark, its majestic exterior (clad in massive clay tiles of matching Mediterranean blue hues) emits rays that will soothe the rods and cones of the achingest eyeballs. Architectural Visine. They're redoing the place now. Condominiums. Who can say what kind of ugly faux Philippe Stark bathroom fixtures they're gussying the place up with... I'm always suspect of these make-overs... before the actual building starts they've already placed slick ads in the Sunday papers with full architectural renderings of tidy dwellings inhabited by lounging long-legged ladies. Puhleez.

Anyhow, for those of you who cringe at the mere mention of Los Angeles, who think its all silicone and cell phones, who laugh at the concept of LA history, well friend, I can tell you that I too was once like you. I came here kicking and screaming, repulsed and resistant to the core. But Los Angeles is a town to be curated. You must carefully hunt down and incorporate those remarkable people, places and things that hide in the sprawl. You must have a great home and a handful of close friends (who needs ten thousand acquaintances?) and a good set of psychic blinders. In building your own LA there is quite a lot you will need to ignore. But once you do, well, I fear what the song prophesies might be true: you can never leave. Welcome!

(photo by Robert Landau)

Saturday, February 11, 2006


As a lad in the late 70s and 80s, OMNI Magazine was staple reading. It was the WIRED of its day and in some ways far more likeable in its clunky, sci-fi, intergalactic-post-hippy-in-search-of-the-ultimate-high aesthetic. Where WIRED tries so hard to appear 15 minutes ahead of the curve, and to have all its media neurons firing 24/7 on Red Bull and T3 lines, OMNI had its roots in old-school counter culture. The tone was spaced-out and lackadaisical, randomly checking stuff out that seemed interesting or provocative or worthy of some trippy H.R. Giger artwork. It was also, perhaps, the earliest collective assertion of the emerging Tech Brigade that would shortly come to rule the planet - a fact supported by scads of hilariously dated ads from new companies like CompuServe and Apple.

Not familiar with OMNI? In its editorial voice you might have detected strong doses of gonzo journalism supported by clashing notes of marijuana and cocaine abuse... Mix in Isaac Asimov's sideburns and a lingering nerds-looking-to-get-laid aftertaste, et voila: the world's first "cool" science rag. That OMNI was part of the Guccione empire meant that it was somehow connected to Penthouse (even the layout and fonts were the same) a fact which did not go unrecognized by legions of randy young men. Granted the magazine grew to lean heavily on the pseudo-sciences, but for me that was its charm. It spoke to the thriving "we don't really care about science and technology, we just want to know if ESP really exists so we can talk to the aliens that control the government" crowd - so well parodied in films like Boogie Nights and Dazed and Confused.

A shuttle-load of OMNI articles are to be found here. Plenty of old copies available on eBay too.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Paranoia kindling...

Have you ever thought about how long it takes for an email to get delivered? Send one to yourself and see. It takes a while... like 15 minutes or more sometimes. Just long enough for someone at the Pentagon to steam open those zeros and ones and make note of your statements in your permanent record.

Have a nice day!

The Original Brokeback Mountain...

In May of 1903, two of the 20th Century's most remarkable men, one a President the other the founder of the Sierra Club, left their posts and their powers behind them to go climbing in the mountains of Yosemite and to experience "Heaven's unquenchable sublimities." "I do not want anyone with me but you," wrote Theodore Roosevelt to John Muir from the White House. This photograph was taken at the outset of the trip. Aside from a few "packers and donkeys" the men were alone in the Sierra. Upon their return, Muir told his wife, "I fairly fell in love with the President." He soon received a handwritten letter from Roosevelt stating, "I trust I need not tell you, my dear sir, how happy were the days in Yosemite. I shall never forget our three camps; the first in the solemn temple of the great sequoias; the next in the snow storm among the silver firs near the brink of a cliff; and the third on the floor of the Yosemite, in the open valley fronting the stupendous rocky mass of El Capitan with the falls thundering in the distance on either hand."

Now, I'm not saying that anything happened. It would be irrelevant to the ensuing history: the indescribably inspired National Park system that Roosevelt and Muir created in record time, AND the first concerted effort to sell conservation of resources to the American people (from a Republican no less!). To say that this critical reshaping of how we think about the American landscape was born of an illicit tryst enacted "in the solemn temple" (not to mention "on the floor") of Yosemite, well that would be beneath me. All I'm saying is when you send a Rough Rider and a Tree Hugger and a few donkeys into the wild, well, don't forget the Judy Garland CDs... Bully!

Thursday, February 09, 2006


Why is guilt the opposite of innocence? It doesn't say much for the aging process does it.

("Isabelle" by Loretta Lux)

UPDATE: for the numerous "wtf?" comments I've received in private... (btw, it's ok to use the "comments" section, we're all friends here).

The opposites game is a good one. I say black, you say... white. Correct. But why? How does that work? If the world hangs in the balance of all manner of distinct and opposing polarities, then isn't it important that we identify the poles correctly? Is there room for error? In an informal survey conducted at Gazpachot laboratories and polling headquarters, 2 out of 2 people when asked what the opposite of the word "innocence" is said... you got it: "guilt." Personally, I would have said "experience" but that's because I try to stay as far away from litigious syntax as humanly possible. Do children leave innocence behind and become increasingly guilty with age? Actually, that kind of thinking does explain a lot of toxic worldviews.

Check your opposites from time to time. They may need rotating.


Wednesday, February 08, 2006

God (is) Complex...

I think St. Bono of Gorgonzola gets it right when he stands up at a National Prayer Breakfast in Washington and turns to George Bush and says "stop asking for God to bless what you're doing, instead look around and get involved in what God is doing because it is already blessed." Not only is that a nice twist on JFK's inaugural antimetabole switcheroo, it's also an important message to America from a non-threatening outsider. The message being: God will bless America when America stops assuming that God's blessings are redeemable as carte blanche political currency. Amen!

Bono may have unleashed his egomania onto the earth, and it is reasonable to be suspicious of (or at least a little nauseated by) his motives... but whatever dividends he hopes to reap in this life or another, his urgent plea for global equality appears to be nearly as effective as it is eloquent. Lives have been saved, minds have been opened (albums have been sold). To be fair, he seems as openly mired in hypocrisy and human folly as he seems guided by higher voices. It's almost like he's half man and half God or something (I mean Jesus, who does this guy think he is?). Read his entire sermon here.

Also very intrigued by the new American Express RED card which a host of global do-gooders helped initiate. Read about it from the horse's mouth here. Global salvation in a swipe of cool red plastic? How moderne... I say why not. Until corruption strikes, help is help.

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

The Prisoner...

No not that Prisoner, which happens to be one of the best examples of mid-century British paranoia we have on record... I'm talking about the potable Prisoner, the one that comes in a corked bottle ready to put a dramatic spin on any quiet winter evening. A most unusual fat and philosophical wine that spreads like a gentle but insistent atomic cloud over the mouth with hidden corners of a child's stolen sugar cube and Tobasco mist in a burning forest. It is not a well-dressed sophisticated wine that arrives on time with drole tales to tell, no, it is a mad Rasputin of an intruder that will dominate your frilly food and hit on all the ladies in the room. You will hear the barking of dogs and shrieks of sirens in the distance. The fire in your fireplace will burn that much brighter with The Prisoner at your table.

Let me start off by saying that I am generally not a fan of California wines. They always seem to have the overbearing characteristics of prime time television. You can taste the laughtrack and the eagerness and above all you can taste the marketing. On the white side of the tracks, I can think of nothing worse than a sweet, cloying California chardonnay... not unlike the plastic cup of melted butter you get at Red Lobster with your dish. On the red side, there is a current mania for Pinot Noirs that sit in the glass like flat diet cherry coke mixed with notes of rubbing alcohol and Hawaiian Punch drained through an oil filter. Oh, and as if that's not enough, a California winemaker will always throw in an extra load of sulfites, just to ensure that you wake up the next day feeling like god himself drove a rusty tent peg through your skull.

But at the end of the day, you can not hold genius back no matter where it crops up. To that end, The Prisoner is one California wine that gets my full attention. It is the triumph of one ego, one vision, one mission to boldly go where few American wines have ever gone...

Here is the story (borrowed from vinology.com) ... The Prisoner is one of several new wines made by David Swift Phinney, a young man who never would have predicted that one day he would be a winemaker. A fateful trip to Italy during college as an exchange student stuck him with a roommate whose family was in the wine business back in the States. Apparently the two of them drank a lot of wine over a semester, and upon his return to the States, the 20-year-old Phinney gave up the dream of being a lawyer and instead focused all his energy into getting into the wine business after graduation. His initial foray into the wine world was writing research papers on grape varietals for a university agriculture department. Knowing that he wanted to be closer to the winemaking, he sent off a volley of letters to anyone and everyone he could think of in Napa asking for a job doing anything from working on the bottling line to answering phones. His efforts yielded only one reply. But one was all Phinney needed, and after that first stint helping out with the crush at Mondavi, he went on to lend increasing amounts of help at Opus One, and then Whitehall Lane, where he learned from winemaker Dean Sylvester. Now 31, he has his own label, sporting images from one of his favorite painters, Goya, and bearing the name of both his parents: Orin for his dad's middle name, and Swift for his mother's maiden name. He produces about 1400 cases of wine and makes a Sauvignon Blanc and a Cabernet in addition to The Prisoner.

Don't we owe our firstborn children to the Dave Phinneys of this world? Isn't it exciting to know that there must be a handful of visionary individuals lurking in every industry, and that it is only a matter of time before their talent juts above the treetops for all to see? Don't you love it when marketing fails and mediocrity is exposed by the mere existence of something indisputably unique?

Monday, February 06, 2006

Sweet Baby Dreams...

A recurring image: Keith Richards walking around the 40-yard line in a stupor looking for a lost guitar pick in the last minutes of play at the Superbowl...
OK you got me. No sleep last night. My brain was caught in a random fact-finding and analysis cycle. No rhyme or reason at all - it was as if my brain were rifling through psychic drawers making wildly incongruous connections and leaps from one topic to the next. It was sort of like dreaming in that my sense of time was completely turned off, but there were none of the benefits of sleep. Actually, I've always sort of enjoyed small doses of delirium. There's no room for anxiety and one actually seems somehow more connected to the free-falling chaos of the world rather than the hyper-contrived order of our human "reality". Still, could have used one of these dream pills last night.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

The Quest for the Perfect Taco...

You live in LA, you are going to eat Mexican. You will ease in to your habit with your impossible-not-to-love joints, your El Compadres and your Poquito Mas's. Then, sensing that all Pico de Gallo is not created equally, you will get more adventurous urges. You will probably explore the likes of Guelaguetza and Burrito King and any number of brightly painted places along Sunset Boulevard in the Silverlake area. But that rush will end too my friend, as all rushes do. Your stomach lining will be asking for something darker, more deviant, less sanctioned by the local health boards. And so, you will move to taco trucks, many of which are considered "bandit" taco trucks, meaning they start their days by pulling out of home driveways, not recognized food establishments. In Tacoland, the rule seems to be, the homier the outfit, the better the grub. Now that you are chasing taco trucks down dark streets of Boyle Heights, you are officially in the big leagues, and here you will encounter the serious Mexican food aficionados. Don't be fooled, they may not be wearing spats or velvet pantaloons, but these are food snobs of the highest order. Their palates are easily as sophisticated as the great chefs of France and Italy. Intrigued? Ready to investigate this thriving subculture? Try visiting here. If Mr. Albanese and his merry band of taco truck reviewers don't whet your appetite (or win you over with the Chariots of Fire soundtrack), well, I'm afraid you should just stick to Del Taco or El Pollo Loco.

Friday, February 03, 2006

King Klonopin...

Ever since the Oscar nominations he's just been sitting there, staring at nothing. I want to shake him and say, come on Kong there'll be other roles... but somehow I know that might not be true. Actors.

Thursday, February 02, 2006

I Conduit...

Yep. The sense of yearning for warmer sunnier days and leaving behind a dark passageway. Leaving your bubble and stumbling upon another world that is both uplifting and just slightly melancholy. Been there. Am there. It's a nice transition. Happy Groundhog day.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

The Location Game...

Can you name the location and at least two movies it has appeared in?

First correct answer will receive a 100% quality tested medium-sized binder
clip in shiny gold or shiny silver. Good luck!

(Click image to enlarge)