Thursday, June 24, 2010

Film and Madness in LA

When you mention Southern CA to most people (and Los Angeles specifically), the first image that comes to their mind usually involves Hollywood in some way. Personally, I always think of the scene from "Pretty Woman," where Julia Roberts is hooking on Hollywood Boulevard and walks by this dude who belts out to anyone who will listen, "Welcome to Hollywood! What's your dream?" Given their choice, I think most people would love to be part of a movie.

So when a friend asked if I wanted to attend a poolside chat about Twitter as part of the LA Film Festival, I couldn't resist. It's a Wednesday night (boring), it's two days before the draft and the event is located at the JW Marriott, where portions of the draft events are located (always a hockey connection).

And then, there were the TwiHards.

That's right...I was right at the center of the camping madness the night before the "Twilight: Eclipse" premiere.

The streets next to the Nokia Theatre were a mini-tent city of teenagers, their parents, and curious onlookers sweating in the heat, waiting for a glimpse of R-Patz and K-Stew as they walked the red carpet.

Is it just me, or does she look a little OLD for this?

Granted, none of these people would actually be seeing the movie, and no one was going to be walking the red carpet until the next day. But if you're a real TwiHard, that's hardly the point, now is it? You support your favorite vampire no matter what the cost! (This coming from the only person on Earth who has not read any of the Twilight books or seen the previous movies).

Watching all the madness in this little tent city, I had an epiphany. If someone could find a way to harness the energy of obsessive teenage girls, we could end world hunger, poverty, and probably achieve world peace. Until then, smart folks took advantage of the opportunity to serve drinks to thirsty people and raise money for a good cause. I think Bella would be proud.

After we'd had enough of the TwiHards, we headed over the Marriott pool for the main event of our evening. Entitled "Poolside Chat: The Power of the Tweet," it was a panel discussion with a group of directors who are active on Twitter talking about how they use it. The list of panelists was interesting, although I was struck by the fact that there were no women.

Jon Chu (Step Up 2: The Streets, Step Up 3-D)
Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko, The Box)
Eli Roth (writer/director, Hostel; actor Inglourious Basterds)
Adam Shankman (director, Hairspray; judge on So You Think You Can Dance)

If you're familiar with Twitter at all, they didn't offer a lot that was groundbreaking in terms of strategy. Interacting with the audience, offering teasers on content, release dates, and such, polling them for input on set design ideas, etc. What was interesting was the impact they thought social media in general, and Twitter specifically would continue to have on the health of the Hollywood system.

As Eli Roth put it, if the audience thinks your movie is crap, you'll find out 15 minutes into the first showing when the Tweets start to hit. Before Twitter, if the movie opened on Friday, you'd find out what people thought on Monday. In the new world, if your film sucks you won't survive the weekend.

In Roth's view, directors will have to continue to step up their game and create quality films that will engage audiences to survive. The days of sliding by on uninspired studio-system driven garbage are ending. As a long time fan of independent film, I like the sound of that.

Adam Shankman, Eli Roth, and Richard Kelly

All the panelists are on Twitter, so check them out! Eli Roth in particular is very entertaining. Who knew a horror director could be so funny!

I wonder what he thinks of the TwiHards?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

The Thought Locker: Coast-to-Coast Edition

With my mini-break to Delaware over, today was, dare I say, rather eventful. Herewith, some thoughts on the joys of a long day getting across the country....

  • I had A LOT of fun with my Foursquare checkins on this trip, but Foursquare and I disagreed on a couple of locations. Can someone tell me how I can get a message that says "Your phone thinks you're a little far from the Route 404, so no points or badges for this checkin" when I'm STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DARN ROAD waiting for the construction flagger to alternate turns so my lane can go? In happier Foursquare news, I am now the Mayor of 4 more locations.
  • I think it's pretty lousy of Hertz not to apply the discount I keyed in WHEN I MADE THE RESERVATION until AFTER I returned the car and noticed my bill total was wrong. Yeah, trying to get me to pay $158 when you know darn well it should only be $39. I wonder how many people fall for that?
  • Attention pilots! Don't say we might get a few light bumps after you ask the flight attendants to take their seats. If they're sitting, we're in for a ride. The experienced fliers aren't fooled for a second.
  • Words you don't want to hear when making a connection on a late in-bound plane -- "They're holding the plane for you...."
  • For some reason I only get a pile of mail when I'm gone. Of course, the only piece I really cared about was this one:
  • I thought my roller bag was a little noisier than usual on the way home. When I was unpacking it, I discovered why. This....

Is supposed to look more like this...

I think I need a break from my break!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Coach Dad

I spent the Fathers Day weekend watching one of the best Dads I know in action in one of the many roles he plays - The Coach.

I am officially in awe of my younger brother. He works two jobs but still manages to find a way to support his boys and pass on his love of baseball, along with the life lessons it helps teach them.

Like all great coaches, he knows you need the right energy to be successful.

He understands how much a few words of encouragement matter before you start an important task.

And he knows a great coach is always there to back you up.

And as anyone who has coached someone to success knows, the rewards outweigh the sacrifices involved in being available when you're needed.

Sometimes those rewards come in physical form.

But just as often, the real reward takes a human form.

So to all the wonderful men out there being "Coach Dad," AND so much more to the people in their lives, Happy Fathers Day.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Boys Will Be Boys

Every time I get home to Delaware for a visit, I cherish the time I spend with my nephews. They have a special place in my heart, because even though I only see them a few times a year, they share so much of their lives with me it's as if hardly any time has passed. And for the most part, they make me feel young, except when they stand next to me and I realize how much taller they've gotten!

My nephew Mike is the family social secretary. He started calling my Mom yesterday, asking when Aunt Meg was going to be home. She explained I had to travel all day but would be around in the morning. So today, before I even got out of the shower, he called back to see when I was coming to visit. He always has lots to show me, and it always starts with a tour of his room.

Mike's latest thing is collecting "silly bands." Anyone out there with kids is probably aware of these things, and potentially frustrated by the level of obsession kids have with collecting them. These are sort of a version of the "jelly bracelets" that were so popular when I was a teenager, except that they're more flexible and come in these crazy shapes.

Mike has a ton of these things, including one in the shape of the Philadelphia Phillies logo!

One of the things I find so entertaining is how much my nephews are like my brother. It's like scenes from my childhood doing things with them. For example, my brother played the drums when we were kids, although perhaps not with this much fervor.

Playing ball - catch specifically - was also a huge part of growing up for me. My brother always played in Little League, and he was very disciplined about practicing his position, which was catching. My little sister would pitch, and I manned second base since I was bigger and could actually catch a hard throw from my brother, who needed to make sure he could make the throw to 2nd in time to catch the opposing runner. My Dad was a trooper and not only sunk a home plate in the front lawn, but measured the exactly distance from home to second base so I knew where to stand and my brother would always be practicing his throw right.

Mike and Will and both pitchers, so the roles are a little more fluid. But regardless of what they're doing with the ball, serious determination goes with the task.

But yeah...they have plenty of fun too!

They're both also EXTREMELY competitive. We decided to play ping-pong for a while, and Will unilaterally decided I would play on Mike's team. Mike promptly handed me this paddle -- clearly a poor endorsement of my perceived ping-pong talent.

I eventually got a better one, although it didn't help my play at all. I guess 6 year olds are pretty good judges of talent.

There is one activity I was HAPPY to be left out of.....

Yup...definitely my brother's sons!

I took the wrestling match as my signal to leave. Because speaking of Little League, Will has a HUGE came tonight, playing for the Lewes Little League Championship, and I didn't want him to be too worn out. Pre-game naps for everyone...including me!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Thought Locker: Stanley Cup Championship Edition

Watching the finale of the Stanley Cup Play-offs while sitting at the bar in the Rainbow Lounge before a show at the Roxy was such a Los Angeles ending to a Cinderella story of a series. This is why I love my life. I only hope the pundits are right and the Kings are modeling the Blackhawks development curve. Watching Johnny "Captain Serious" Toews lift that Cup just made me want my boys to do it that much sooner.

I had some other thoughts too...
  • If the goal that won the series doesn't have you convinced the "Hockey Gods" exist, nothing will. While Patrick Kane was looking up and saying "Thank you for liking me, guys!," Michael Leighton was looking down and thinking "What did I do to offend you?"
  • Speaking of Patrick Kane, is there any greater argument that mistakes are eventually forgiven? The guy goes from beating up a cab driver before the season even starts to becoming the hero of the Stanley Cup Final.
  • Probably none of my hockey buddies are happier right now than Erika Zimmerman. After changing her Twitter handle several times during the regular NHL season, something tells me she'll be sticking with Hattrickkane for a while!
  • Could Patrick Sharpe be any hotter? He looked good enough at Staples Center in March...

...but the playoffs proved he can work the play-off beard too.
  • Thanks to the Chicago Tribune, no NHL forward needs to fear Chris Pronger any longer. They can just imagine him in a figure skating skirt, laugh, and skate right by him from now on.
  • The Blackhawks win also meant that I won a bet with my friend and favorite Philly Fanatic Tammy Good. I'm now 2-2 in bets on big games, since I also won my Olympic bet on Team Canada. Maybe if I had bet someone on the Kings clearing round 1, it would have happened. Better get my money ready for Frozen Fury weekend now...

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Dave Barnes @ The Roxy

The last time I saw Dave Barnes in LA was at The Hotel Cafe back in April of 2009, almost a year before the release of his current album "What We Want, What We Get." I always enjoy Dave's recordings, so I snapped up his latest release on pre-order several months ago and have been listening to it non-stop in the car since it arrived in the mail. But nothing beats a Dave Barnes live show, so I was happy to see him making an appearance at The Roxy on Sunset Boulevard.

The best part was running into Cissy and Suzanne, two new friends I made at the Hotel Cafe LAST YEAR! Catching up made standing in line a lot more fun!

One of the great things about Dave is his support of young, up and coming artists, and I'm always curious to see who comes along for the ride to open for him. At the last Hotel Cafe show, I discovered Andrew Ripp, who is currently working on a new album, produced by none other than DAVE BARNES, and opening for Dave on some Midwest dates.

The first act was Julian Moon, a San Diego based college student who sounds kind of like Jewel without the yodeling.

The thing stood out most about her was her awesome shoes. She's cute, but the music is pleasant yet unremarkable. Her band mates were more interesting than she was -- a one-armed drummer (one arm was in a sling) and a guitar player that could pass for Kings defenceman Matt Greene.

So much for that.

But the REAL new talent discovery of the night was Allen Stone.

Don't let the long blond hair, geeky black rimmed glasses, and acoustic guitar fool you -- this guy has a HUGE voice tailor made for R&B. Think James Morrison or Marc Broussard, two of my favorite singers, and you get the idea. The son of religious parents, he grew up singing gospel, and you can tell. All of his original music is passionate, thoughtful and melodic, and the cover he pulled off of the Marvin Gaye classic "What's Going On" had the whole room singing right along.

Stone's performance more than justified further exploration with a CD purchase, which is now on constant rotation in the car right next to Dave's record.

Key tracks to check out include "Better Off This Way," "Figure It Out," and "Poison."

Then it was time for the man himself...THE Dave Barnes.

If you look up the term "cutie-patootie" in the dictionary, you'll find Dave's picture next to it. Or as Suzanne said several times throughout the evening, "He's just so adorable!"

The set list kicked off with selections from the new album, then mixed in a nice variety of old favorites from previous albums with classic Dave story vignettes sprinkled throughout.

What I Need
My Love, My Enemy
Grace's Amazing Hands
Someday, Sarah
What We Want, What We Get
The L.A. Song
I Have and Always Will
God Gave Me You
Little Lies
Until You
Greyhound (Encore)

My only complaint about the show was the venue, or more specifically, the crowd. During the portions where I was standing in the back, it was hard to hear and a bunch of unappreciative people were talking through some really nice moments. After the epic campfire sing-along harmonizing at Hotel Cafe, this one was a little bit of a let-down.

To Dave's credit, he worked his butt off to keep his audience engaged right up until the end, even coming down into the crowd to get everyone snapping, clapping and singing along to "Greyhound."

Because whether the whole crowd knows it or not, Dave Barnes is a talent worth seeing under any circumstances. And the next time he's in LA, I'll be there.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Thought Locker: Head Scratching Edition

  • Have you ever noticed how certain products refer themselves as "lightly salted," but you never find anything advertised as "heavily salted?" I think salt gets a bad rap. I'm gonna buy stock in the first product I find that advertises it's loaded with extra salt.
  • The subject line of an e-mail I received from Victoria's Secret a couple of weeks ago intrigued me. " Be a Beach Bombshell: New MIRACULOUS Bikini adds 2 Cup Sizes!" So what happens when the guy that hits on you thinking he's scored a "Beach Bombshell" sees you WITHOUT the bikini? Sounds like a not-so-small "truth in advertising" problem to me.
  • Whoever the masochist is at Southwest Airlines that decided you can't use the free drink coupons for Monster Energy drinks needs to be stuck sitting next to me on a long flight when I haven't had enough caffeine. Because I'm going to get drunk on my stack of otherwise unusable drink coupons and they get to drive me to my hotel when I land.
  • According to Southwest Airlines magazine, America's 16 largest hotels are all in Las Vegas. The fact that the Las Vegas Airport isn't even closely proportionate in size explains the length of the security lines.
  • For some reason I have an uncontrollable urge to say "Moooooooo!" whenever I see a cow while driving. So even though mooing while exiting on Route 12 to Napa to go wine tasting seemed inconsistent with the occasion, I did it anyway.
  • Why do the best sunsets always happen when there isn't a convenient place to pull over and I only have a camera phone?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Moving On: Nice to Have or Need to Have?

It's hard to believe that one year ago this week, I embarked on an exciting journey and moved into new digs in downtown Los Angeles. As I was waiting in the rental office to sign the lease to renew my stay for another year, I had a chance to reflect on what I've learned in the past year by seeing life from a different vantage point.

The biggest challenge the move presented was space -- at barely 600 square feet, this is the smallest place I've ever occupied on my own, with the exception of a college dorm room. When I was home at Christmas, we had a family dinner and my sister and brother-in-law were talking about their visit with me in July. Liz and Dave were commenting how much they would love to move to California if they could afford it. I explained that’s why I live in a 600 square foot studio. I looked at my cousin just as her mouth dropped open and she sat in shock for a minute, then commented that her closet was bigger than my entire apartment.

In fairness, she probably needs the space. She loves antiques, collects Elvis memorabilia, and decorates every surface of her home every Christmas. These things make her happy. The thing I've discovered living in less space is that I don't need all that to be happy. As long as my closet has enough space for my hockey jerseys, I'm cool.

It's similar to a content editing strategy I use when developing training. I always ask myself, is this piece of information "nice to know" or "need to know?" Applied to physical possessions, the concept becomes "nice to have" or "need to have." Based on what I've learned in the past year, the list of truly "need to have" items in my life is pretty small, and 600 square feet of space is more than enough to accommodate them. Although I do manage to have a little space for a few of my favorite "nice to have" things...

My hockey corner

Things aside, what I've ultimately discovered is that I get the greatest satisfaction in my life from my relationships and the experiences they bring me. I crave time more than space, and having less space actually gives me more time. Because while my friends with homes are cleaning, maintaining and caring for their spaces and stuff, I'm free to go explore outside the box I live in every day, including nurturing those relationships that bring me happiness.

After all, the only place any of us really need space is in our hearts. That's where all the best "need to have" things should be stored...forever.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Problem With Baseball (From a Hockey Point Of View)

Before hockey came into my life, I was a baseball fan. While I was never a season ticket holder, I attended 10-15 games a year. I went out of my way to get tickets for game series involving my favorite teams from other cities. I watched baseball on TV when I couldn't attend games. I followed all the off-season trades, and knew batting averages and ERA's for my favorite players. I was also convinced I was destined to marry Mike Piazza, but that's another story altogether.

Ever since I discovered hockey, baseball just hasn't been the same for me. Let's face it -- after experiencing the speed and constant action of hockey, sitting through an entire baseball game is the rough equivalent of watching grass grow.

Even so, I still enjoy the occasional Dodger game. Especially when a fight breaks out! And who was the Dodger involved? None other than Canadian-born catcher Russell Martin.

OK, not as exciting as a hockey fight, but a vast improvement on your normal night of baseball. Unfortunately, the fight was the most exciting thing that happened in regulation, and the game was tied after 9 full innings of play.

Now, the most perplexing thing about baseball, when compared to a sport like hockey, is the role of overtime, or in baseball parlance, extra innings. In hockey, like most sports, overtime is when the excitement builds. In a matter of minutes, one team will claim victory and the other will collapse in defeat. Sudden death! Nail biting! Fans sitting on the edge of their seats, anxious to see how the saga ends!

Extra innings in baseball receive exactly the opposite fan reaction. Instead of getting excited, baseball fans are thinking "We've been here for hours already! Is this ever going to end? Damn, we could be here all night!"

But baseball fans are in luck, because as I sat there wondering how late I would be getting home, I had an epiphany. I have the answer to baseball's extra-inning woes! Baseball games that end in a tie should ultimately be concluded with a Home Run Derby!

In my little baseball fantasy world, here's how the rules would work:
  • At the end of 9 innings, each team would have 5 minutes to choose a pitcher and determine a batting line-up.
  • There can be no pitching changes once the Home Run Derby begins.
  • Each batter can be used only once.
  • Each batter would receive 5 pitches.
  • Batters would alternate one at a time between both teams.
  • The first team to hit a home run wins the game.
For all you baseball fans out there, I'm curious what you think! I figure I should have a plan to handle potential objections before I pitch my idea to the commissioner of baseball.

Until the rules of the game get changed, I will give baseball credit for one thing...much better food than hockey! Nothing on Earth like a Dodger Dog....