26 February 2012

Silents Rock!

I really hope "The Artist" continues its winning streak at tonight's Oscars because, when it wins, it will be only the second time in the history of the Oscars that a silent film won best picture -- not since "Wings" in 1929. I just love statistics like that.

22 February 2012

Storm Over the Getty

During our visit to the Getty Center in Los Angeles last week, a huge winter storm blew in bringing rain, wind and even some snow.

Here is a photograph we took of the storm as it was approaching.

A couple hours later, after the storm has reached its peak, I took this video of the wind. It runs about three minutes and is nothing but the wind. Keep in mind that the temperature was in the low 40s at the time (it had, after all, been snowing a little). I was a nice shade of blue when I stepped back inside from the balcony where I was filming this. The strip of blue you see near the top is the Pacific Ocean.

21 February 2012

News on the Home Front

I've been a writer for a very long time -- I had my first newspaper article published while I was still in high school. I've written for newspapers, magazines, radio and a little television -- but never had any long-form writing published. Well, it's been a long time in coming, but I have finally gotten my first novel published!

"News on the Home Front" covers one of my favorite subjects: life on the home front during World War Two. What were people doing in the states while their loved ones fought overseas? How did people cope with rationing and shortages of even the most basic things like sugar, coffee, shoes, tires? How did they help the war effort by donating metal, saving scrap paper, selling fat from their dinners to the local butcher? It was an amazing time.

Specifically, my novel looks at the lives of two women who were friends from childhood and how the war has affected them.

I think it's a pretty exciting look at life on the home front -- and now it's available as an ebook through Amazon. You can read a free preview and download it here.

I am especially happy with the great cover for my novel designed by my very talented spouse, Matt.

20 February 2012

Getty Center

Another highlight of our recent Los Angeles trip was a day at the Getty Center on top of a huge mountain near the coast. While there, a huge winter storm came barreling into Los Angeles. It brought some rain, LOTS of wind -- and even a little snow! It was the wildest thing! I don't think I have ever been in LA during a storm. This was special!

There is a lot to see at the Getty Center -- although not very much 20th-century art (which is my favorite). They did have a small exhibition of Alexei Jawlensky paintings (see photograph) which were the highlight of my day.

Other exhibitions we enjoyed included "In Focus: Los Angeles, 1945–1980" featuring photographs of the city; "Lyonel Feininger Photographs 1928 - 1939" featuring the work of this important American photographer who grew up in Germany; and "From Start to Finish: De Wain Valentine's Gray Column" which included a fascinating sample of how this artist poured and then polished his polyester resin sculptures.

You can find out more about the Getty Center here.

You can find out more about the art of Alexei Jawlensky here.

19 February 2012

Hollywood Costumes

One of the highlights of our recent trip to Los Angeles was a new exhibition at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising featuring costumes from films released in 2011. This small but exciting exhibition was really well-organized, featuring costumes from all five films nominated for a 2012 Academy Award: "The Artist" ([pictured] designed by Mark Bridges), "Hugo" (Sandy Powell), "Anonymous" (Lisy Christl), "W.E." (Arianne Phillips) and "Jane Eyre" (Michael O'Connor).

While costumes are often amazing on screen, it is not until you are inches away from them that you see the skill and artistry that goes into something that might not be on screen more than a few minutes. The costumes from "J. Edgar" (Deborah Hopper) appear to be of such quality that you could purchase them today in a fine men's wear store, and those from "Immortals" (Eiko Ishioka) are comprised of various unusual materials that you would never discern on screen. Of the costumes from "Cowboys and Aliens" (Mary Zophres), it is interesting to note two versions of the same outfit: one normal dress and then the same dress after the character had been wounded (now sporting a hole and fake-blood stains).

Costume designing has not always been in the forefront of filmmaking; in the early days of film in New York and Hollywood, actors were required to bring their own clothing making it an expensive occupation for part-time actors. Hedda Hopper, the famous gossip columnist who started out as a bit player, recounts in one of her biographies how she spent rent money on fine clothes in order to beat out other actors for roles of society women. She was never a great actor, but she was certainly clever.

Over time, creating costumes for film became an important art; but it was not until 1949 that costume designs were honored by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (for films made in 1948). This means many superior examples of costume design were never recognized by the Academy -- including "Showboat" (1936, designed by Doris Zinkeisen), "Gone with the Wind" (Walter Plunkett), "The Wizard of Oz" (Adrian) and "Yankee Doodle Dandy" (Milo Anderson).

Although he never won an Oscar, Adrian is represented at FIDM: In addition to costumes from current films, the exhibition also features items from Hollywood's history worn by stars including Jean Harlow (dance shorts from "Reckless" designed by Adrian), Fred Astaire, William Farnum, Mabel Normand, Rudolph Valentino and Mae West.

The exhibition is free to the public and runs through 28 April at the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandising in Los Angeles, California.

You can read more about the exhibition here.

18 February 2012

2 Broke Girls

First "Rules of Engagement" (MGM) then "The Big Bang Theory" (Warner Brothers) and now we can add "2 Broke Girls" (Warner Brothers) to the list of television programs for which we have attended a taping. Yes, that's right: we love the new series "2BG" so much we made yet another pilgrimage to Burbank to attend a taping -- this one, on Valentine's night.

Matt and I are hooked on "2BG." It provides solace to us now that "The Big Bang Theory" is less about funny and more about Sheldon's quirkiness. Sigh! Still, we have "2BG."

We had a ball at the taping of "2BG" -- mostly because we were the lucky recipients of one of the show's cupcakes (see photograph)! If you have not seen this show, one of the characters bakes these really terrific cupcakes to sell at the diner where she works -- shades of "Mildred Pierce." At our taping, they handed out about 12 cupcakes amongst an audience of about 250 people.

The episode we saw taped is very funny (has to do with the two girls participating in a drug testing experiment) and we relished the chance to see a new show coalesce into a very funny series. (We were told the "2BG" pilot tested higher than any other show -- comedy or drama -- in the history of pilot testing.)

After, we were only able to get an autograph from Beth Behrs -- because none of the rest of the cast came out to greet the audience except Matthew Moy, who plays Han, the diner owner. (We did not get Moy's because he was on the other side of the studio and came and went very quickly. We were in line to get Behr's and were lucky to get it because she only did four before being hustled out.) When we were leaving the sound stage on the Warner lot we spotted show-creator Michael Patrick King approaching his car so we called out to him for an autograph. He was actually kind enough to stand and chat for a few minutes about the show, which was very interesting for us. (Michael: we still have your pen that you used for the autograph. Let us know if you want it back and we'll gladly return it.)

Overall, it was a great night. We took the cupcake back to our hotel where Matt ate most of it the next morning. (I'm not supposed to eat sugar, so I just had a small taste.)

14 February 2012

Happy Birthday to You!

While it is true today is the birthday of the state of Arizona (our centennial, in fact), it is more importantly the birthday of the greatest comic talent in the history of comic talents: yes, I mean Jack Benny. Happy 118th Jack! (Happy V-Day, HBSP!)

05 February 2012

Always a Bridesmaid

Every year around this time, I start to feel a little like Kevin O'Connell -- the man who has been nominated 20 times for an Oscar and never won.

No, I have not been nominated for an Oscar; rather, I have (once again) entered the annual Oscar contest sponsored by our good friend down under: Kris Howard.

I have been entering various Oscar contests for about 20 years -- and usually winning. I used to be invited to the house of some theater friends of mine but they stopped inviting me after I won their contest something like five years in a row.

Unless I am greatly mistaken I have entered Kris' Oscar contest each of the 10 years she has held it -- and never won. No, it's true. A couple years ago I came within one vote of winning (or, at least tying) but faltered at the last moment and lost to someone else who probably never entered the contest before or since. I certainly deserve to win just because I have been there, every year, trying my best. But I imagine, unlike Hollywood, Kris does not give out her awards for a body of effort -- just for whomever correctly guesses the most actual Oscar winners. I suppose that's fair.

Speaking of Kris' awards: Each year she hand makes a sock-monkey variant for the winner (see the montage I created). These are totally cool. Over the past few years, she has made sock monkeys that are characters from one of that year's nominated movies.

I suppose I shouldn't complain about not winning one of her contests because I am actually the proud owner of one of the prizes: the soctopus from 2005. (That year's winner didn't want it or something, and Kris very kindly sent it to me as I had sent her the idea to make a sock octopus. Isn't it cute?)

In fact, we (Matt and I) are the proud owners of THREE of Kris' great sock monkey creations -- starting about 10 years ago when she sent one to Matt. Matt then acquired one for me for my birthday, and then Kris sent me the 2005 Oscar prize. (Sadly for you, you cannot buy these fantastic creations. You have to be, like, really, really good friends with Kris for her to make you one because they take, like, forever to make and she has lots of things to do, not just sit around making a sock monkey for you. Sheece!)

Anyway, if you REALLY want one of her sock monkey creations, you can try your luck in Kris' 10th annual Oscar contest here.

But, seriously, don't expect to win because I have a feeling this is going to be MY year.

02 February 2012

Busby Berkeley did it First

Sure, it's totally cool seeing a bunch of robot helicopters
flying in formation; but didn't Busby Berkeley do it earlier -- and much better?