Design of a Decade: The Best of the 00s



Because I can't get enough of listing shit, I give you four Top 25 lists. No eloquent critiques as backup. No wordy explanations behind each title. Just names of films, songs, books and television programs that have thoroughly entertained, moved and inspired me - and sent shockwaves throughout the known pop culture universe - during these last 10 years. The trickiest category to fill? Songs. How could I possibly select just 25 tracks from 62 volumes of mix CDs (that's over 1,300 tunes since Y2K)? I'm sure I'll be kicking myself for neglecting a couple of well-deserved tracks long after this is published. As for the films, after seeing over 550 flicks at the theater in 10 years (yes, I've kept track), only two of my top choices were viewed for the first time on DVD.

You see, there were no such things as blogs back in the 90s, so humor me...won't you?


25 IN FILM


1. Children of Men (2006)
2. About a Boy (2002)
3. Milk (2008)
4. Up in the Air (2009)
5. Traffic (2000)
6. The Lord of the Rings trilogy (2001-03)
7. Moulin Rouge (2001)
8. Camp (2003)
9. Little Children (2006)
10. Chicago (2002)
11. WALL-E (2008)
12. Heights (2005)
13. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
14. Donnie Darko (2001)
15. 500 Days of Summer (2009)
16. Crash (2005)
17. Kill Bill: Vol. 1 & 2 (2003-04)
18. Garden State (2004)
19. The Broken Hearts Club (2000)
20. Bride and Prejudice (2005)
21. A.I. (2001)
22. American Psycho (2000)
23. Atonement (2007)
24. Babel (2006)
25. Cloverfield (2008)


25 IN MUSIC


1. "Time to Pretend" by MGMT (2008)
2. "Black and Gold" by Sam Sparro (2008)
3. "Everybody's Changing" by Keane (2004)
4. "Beautiful" by Christina Aguilera (2003)
5. "Simply Being Loved" by BT (2003)
6. "Mama's Room" by Under the Influence of Giants (2006)
7. "Rehab" by Amy Winehouse (2007)
8. "SexyBack" by Justin Timberlake (2006)
9. "Mr. Brightside" by The Killers (2004)
10. "Chocolate" by Snow Patrol (2004)
11. "Trains to Brazil" by Guillemots (2006)
12. "In the End" by Linkin Park (2001)
13. "Umbrella" by Rihanna (2007)
14. "In My Place" by Coldplay (2002)
15. "Crazy in Love" by Beyonce (2003)
16. "Bad Romance" by Lady Gaga (2009)
17. "The Way I Are" by Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson (2007)
18. "Everything's Just Wonderful" by Lily Allen (2007)
19. "Neon" by John Mayer (2002)
20. "Ashes" by Embrace (2005)
21. "Fill Me In" by Craig David (2001)
22. "Toxic" by Britney Spears (2004)
23. "God is a DJ" by Pink (2003)
24. "Hey Ya" by Outkast (2003)
25. "Bootylicious" by Destiny's Child (2001)


25 IN TV


1. Six Feet Under (2001-05)
2. The Sopranos (1999-2007)
3. Desperate Housewives (2004-present)
4. Lost (2004-2010)
5. Alias (2001-06)
6. Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997-2003)
7. Sex and the City (1998-2004)
8. Mad Men (2007-present)
9. Angels in America (2003)
10. Battlestar Galactica (2003-09)
11. Will & Grace (1998-2006)
12. Veronica Mars (2004-2007)
13. American Idol (2002-present)
14. 30 Rock (2006-present)
15. Pushing Daisies (2007-2009)
16. Dexter (2006-present)
17. Nip/Tuck (2003-2010)
18. Arrested Development (2003-06)
19. Survivor (2000-present)
20. 24 (2001-present)
21. C.S.I. (2000-present)
22. House (2004-present)
23. Scrubs (2001-present)
24. The O.C. (2003-07)
25. Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (2003-07)


25 IN BOOKS


1. "Dinner for Two" by Mike Gayle
2. "The DaVinci Code" by Dan Brown
3. "Odd Thomas" by Dean Koontz
4. "Turning Thirty" by Mike Gayle
5. "Be More Chill" by Ned Vizzini
6. "Little Children" by Tom Perrotta
7. "Running With Scissors" by Augusten Burroughs
8. "My Horizontal Life" by Chelsea Handler
9. "Jack and Lem" by David Pitts
10. "The Confessions of Max Tivoli" by Andrew Sean Greer
11. "The Year of Magical Thinking" by Joan Didion
12. "Wonderland" by Michael Bamberger
13. "King Dork" by Frank Portman
14. "The Day After Tomorrow" by Allan Folsom
15. "A Home at the End of the World" by Michael Cunningham
16. "Disquiet" by Julia Leigh
17. "It's Kind of a Funny Story" by Ned Vizzini
18. "Michael Tolliver Lives" by Armistead Maupin
19. "The Road" by Cormac McCarthy
20. "Twelve" by Nick McDonnell
21. "The Game On Diet" by Krista Vernoff and Az Ferguson
22. "Why The Long Face?" by Craig Chester
23. "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix" by J.K. Rowling
24. "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies" by Graham Smith & Jane Austen
25. "I'm the One That I Want" by Margaret Cho


Naturally, I'm open to suggestions, feedback and healthy pop cultural debates. Send inquiries and comments to:

Hiko@IReallyCouldCareLessAboutYourOpinion.com.

Sincerely,
H.P.M.


2009: REWIND


Transition.

If we could sum up the final year of this decade in one word, it would be this. It's a theme that's been running throughout the last twelve months. A transition in our government. A transition in our relationships. A transition in our careers...Yes, 2009 saw nearly everyone I know and their mother collectively press the Reset button on their lives - whether they liked it or not - with the hopes of it bringing a change for the better. Bags were packed and shipped off to new cities. Jobs were lost and then placed upon the shoulders of others. Trusts were betrayed, ending long-running relationships. Rights were stripped away, leaving millions wondering whether or not their country is a place where everyone is truly equal. For lack of a better rollercoaster metaphor, emotions were as up and down as they could get.

I believe I speak for most of my friends and family when I say, "We're kinda over you, '09...Where you at, 2010?"



As we bid adieu to the 2000s (shudder to think - I remember the Y2K scare like it was last week), we can't help but reflect on the times we've had. And this past year certainly did not leave us bored - pop culturally speaking of course. Rihanna met the back of Chris Brown's hand. Tiger Woods met the fury of several women scorned. We lost the King of Pop (MJ) and the King of Teen Angst (John Hughes). Jon and Kate equaled so much hate. ER shut its doors for good. We believed a boy was in a balloon. James Cameron believed in glow-in-the-dark jungles on moons. Kanye was a dick - again. Christian Bale blew up on YouTube - literally. Susan Boyle did too - figuratively. Lady Gaga wrote a bad romance. Sarah Palin wrote a book. Paula left Idol. Adam Lambert left his inhibitions at the door. There seemed to be a celebrity death every other week. And before you could say Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, our national health care crisis showed some signs of life, and the world suddenly seemed like it wasn't going to end after all.

As for me, I got around in 2009...so to speak. I reunited with a friend in Seattle. I skinnydipped in Palm Springs (twice). I got sunburnt in San Francisco. I cried in Philadelphia. I had the pleasure of meeting one of my idols in San Diego. I had an epiphany in Boston. I reminisced in New York. And I danced in a flash mob on a casino floor in Vegas.

All without stealing any hotel shampoo or towels.

It's also the last full year of my 20s, and I'm okay with that. Truly. I know the next decade will only be better because the older I get, the wiser I'll become, and with that, the more secure I'll feel and yada, yada, yada. I do feel a change a-comin', and it's not because we're approaching December 31. What I know now is a lot more than what I knew on December 31, 1999. But before I anticipate and look forward to what's to come, let's take one last look, shall we? Because what would a retrospective be without listing the highlights from these past 365 days? A damn, boring shame, that's what.

You knew this was coming...


FILM PICKS


1. Up in the Air - Here we have a modern classic that will forever be known as one of the most beautiful and accurate portraits of American culture at the beginning of the 21st century. George Clooney is at his devilishly endearing best as a man constantly on the move, sadly confident and supposedly happy with the detached existence he's created for himself. Vera Farmiga (brilliantly sexy) and Anna Kendrick (now on everyone's radar - finally) are the women who enter his life and keep him grounded for the time being.

2. Up - When will be the day when we don't see a Pixar production on a top 10 list? This animated wonder tugged at heartstrings within the first 10 minutes, beautifully narrating a wordless (yet daring) prologue packed with a humanity that was sorely lacking in a majority of films this year, and ultimately showed us that we all need a great adventure in our lives (And no, little Russell was not based on me).

3. Star Trek - A genuinely entertaining popcorn thrill ride that's neither too brainy nor too brain-numbing. And we have maestro J.J. Abrams to thank for that, orchestrating a reboot that admirably succeeded in reinventing a franchise that was once thought dead. Truly the most intelligent spectacle to hit theaters this past summer.


4. 500 Days of Summer - The Annie Hall for GenY, this postmodern love-story-that-isn't-a-love-story beautifully deconstructed the politics of dating and the burning desire to find The One and scattered them to the wind, making us appreciate and fall in love with each little piece of the emotional puzzle we tend to drive ourselves crazy putting together. Throw in the perfect soundtrack along with some gorgeous cinematography and timeless set design, and you have yourself a polished piece of alterna-rom-com bliss.

5. Inglourious Basterds - Tarantino's ultimate revenge fantasy makes the Kill Bill saga look like a glossy Lifetime miniseries, delivering an awesome piece of revisionist history that’s neither offensive nor overly self-indulgent. Melanie Laurent and Christophe Waltz blow their castmates out of the water respectively as Shosanna Dreyfus, a beautiful theater owner with a supersized hidden agenda, and Col. Hans Landa, a Nazi detective who chews every line of dialogue with zest.

6. Precious: Based on the Novel Push by Sapphire - More than just another one of those triumph-over-hardship stories, Greg Daniels unflinching adaptation of the gritty bestseller introduces us to a life worth fighting for, breakthrough talents in Gabby Sidibe and Mo'Nique...and the color florescent beige.


7. A Single Man - The camera lingers on Colin Firth's face during a scene in Tom Ford's directorial debut (yes, that Tom Ford) during which he receives devastating news over the phone. And in the span of 60 seconds we’re given the privilege to quietly watch as shock, pain and grief etch themselves into every crevice of the actor’s handsome mug. It's a moment that sets the tone for the rest of this melancholic film in which we follow a single day in the quiet life of a closeted college professor who slowly gives in to despair. But the real beauty to be found lies within the journey he takes to rediscover the beauty in life he once lost.

8. Avatar - So, Jim Cameron finally has his Star Wars. That hype? Totally worth it. This stunning sci-fi epic (no videogame, graphic novel or toy adaptation in sight!) plunges us into fully fleshed-out world and never lets go. Brace yourself for the copycats.

9. District 9 - A jolting and daring political/social allegory disguised as a sci-fi actioner; we only get these every so often, usually on television. Neill Blomkamp's directorial debut deserves all the hyperboles it receives and should teach future artists a thing or two about the genre.

10. Duplicity - Or, The Best Julia Roberts Flick No One Saw.

HONORABLE CINEMATIC MENTIONS:

Forever Golden: Betty White in The Proposal.

Most Likely to be Snubbed by the Academy: Hugh Dancy in Adam

Sizzler of the Season: Penelope Cruz in Nine.

Blair Witch Was Scarier, But Still...: Paranormal Activity

If This Were a Comic-Con Top 10: Watchmen

Holy Cameos: Funny People

Trailer of the Year: Tron Legacy

Movies I Wish I'd Seen Because I'm Pretty Sure They'd Make It On This List: Adventureland, State of Play, Fantastic Mr. Fox, I Love You, Man, A Perfect Getaway and The Hurt Locker.



TV PICKS


1. Glee (Fox) - Part high school melodrama, part musical, part nighttime serial - all fun. Basically, it's what you'd get if you crossed Mean Girls with American Idol. Trying to name an episode that didn't leave a smile on your face (or a tear in your eye) would be impossible. Ryan Murphy's Little Dramedy That Could (and did) is the most refreshingly original and uplifting piece of television to break out this season.

2. Nurse Jackie (Showtime) - Edie Falco's devastatingly flawed Jackie Peyton cheated on her husband, snorted drugs in the restroom in between shifts at work and flushed the severed ear of an abusive diplomat down the toilet – and that was just in the first episode. This seriocomic series graced television with another memorable heroine for the history books. And kudos to the immensely likable supporting cast, most notably the surprising Peter Facinelli, the wicked Eve Best, the hysterical Merritt Wever, the revealing Haaz Sleiman, and the biting Anna Deavere Smith. Emmys, get ready.

3. Modern Family (ABC) - Successfully reinventing the family sitcom, MF's the first comedy to make us laugh this hard since 30 Rock premiered four seasons ago, giving us something rare: dry sardonic humor and sarcasm with heart.

4. Grey Gardens (HBO) - Jessica Lange and a breakthrough-performing Drew Barrymore shine in Michael Sucsy's sparkling adaptation of the cult documentary.

5. Battlestar Galactica (SyFy) - This series’ swan song let alone was enough to eclipse full seasons of some of the best shows on TV. While this criminally underrated drama bowed out with a thrilling, emotional and shocking finale that left us wanting more, it was the most satisfying and heartfelt goodbye we’ve experienced since Six Feet Under’s haunting exit over four years ago.


6. FlashForward (ABC) - Learning a lesson or two from Lost, this beautifully cast cryptodrama takes a big concept (global blackout!), raises a crapload of questions and steadily feeds us answers as we grow closer to a resolution that promises to mesmerize beyond that mysterious 2010 date.

7. Dexter (Showtime) - John Lithgow? Frightfully good. That jaw-dropping finale? Totally heart-crushing. This insanely clever show I thought would never take off? Proving me wrong.

8. Mad Men (AMC) - A game-changing season for a game-changing television drama that continues seduce, simmer and surprise.

9. Damages (FX) – Not as razor-sharp as its first season, the second case in FX’s legal potboiler still provided some neat twists and great arcs for stars Glenn Close and Rose Byrne. And adding Timothy Olyphant to any show will always get you a spot on my Best Of list.

10. So You Think You Can Dance (Fox) - Season 5 was an absolute stunner, giving us breathtaking performances (and costumes) we’ll never forget and making that other Dancing competition look like the cheesy bargain-bin variety show it truly is. As for that abbreviated Season 6? We’ll just pretend it was all a dream. An unnecessary and lackluster dream.

AND PROPS TO:

Katie Cassidy on Melrose Place - The girl is proving to be a worthy protege of Amanda Woodward.

Kristen Wiig on SNL - Five words: "I'm just so frickin excited!"

GOOD 80s REDOS: V

...AND THE BAD: Eastwick (You're in our prayers, Parenthood).



MUSIC PICKS


1. "We Are The People" by Empire of the Sun - Or, what would happen if MGMT and Fleetwood Mac had an Australian lovechild, peppered in some head-scratching lyrics about nostalgia and Godknowswhatelse, and gave us one of the most original and mesmerizing singles of the year:



2. "Give it to Me Right" by Melanie Fiona - Sampling "Time of the Season," Ms. Fiona's soulful debut single is vibrant proof that Canadians know their Motown.

3. Complete Me by Frankmusik – Listening to every track on this Brit’s electrorific debut album is like revisiting 1987 and paying homage to the likes of The Cure, Pet Shop Boys, The Eurythmics and Erasure (MUST LISTENS: "Vacant Heart," "Better Off As 2").

4. "The Fear" by Lily Allen - "I am a weapon of massive consumption/It's not my fault/It's how I'm programmed to function." And so we have another brilliant little ditty from the girl who effortlessly manages to self-deprecate and voice the contradictory concerns of a generation at the same time. Pray she doesn't go away anytime soon.

5. "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland - The high-energy party anthem of the summer was also the dance single of the year. The globally famous DJ from Paris teamed up with one-third of Destiny's Child, and it was an unlikely match made in sonic heaven (RUNNER-UP: Cascada's Gaga-esque "Evacuate the Dancefloor").

6. "The Man Who Can't Be Moved" by The Script - The Dublin trio, headed by a vocalist who's got a croon crossed between John Legend and Chris Martin, broke out this year - and rightfully so. Their debut single is a beautiful anthem of melancholy:



7. "Don't Stop Believing" by the cast of Glee - What could have been the Worst Karaoke Experiment From Hell turned out to be a frown-flipping, spirit-soaring and inspirational rendition that was continually played on Repeat all summer long.

8. The Fame Monster by Lady Gaga - These 8 tracks (call it a bonus LP, call it a whole new album) pulsate with a brilliant energy that's quickly cementing LG's status as the Next Great Pop Star. The 2010s belong to Gaga. And they should. The eclectic entertainer from New York is proving to the world that underneath the metallic-ringed costumes and Kermit the Frog frocks she's got a voice and an influential style that's to be reckoned with. "Speechless," a twangy yet powerful ballad, soars. "Telephone" delivers. "Dance in the Dark" echoes Depeche Mode. "Teeth" is a theatrical foot-stomper. "Alejandro" is an irresistible Latin-flavored love letter. And "Monster" is the tastiest of the bunch that also doubles as a cautionary tale. Overall, the girl makes love gone bad sound so good. And course, how could you not be blown away by her visual interpretation of "Bad Romance," possibly the best music video we've seen since Beyonce told us to "put a ring on it":



9. "Bulletproof" by La Roux - The synthpop duo (Elly Jackson and Ben Langmaid) lay down infectious sounds reminiscent of a videogame composition from 1985 and delivered one of the most empowering tracks of the year.

10. "Million Dollar Bill" by Whitney Houston - A welcome single from the Comeback Kid of 2009, who effortlessly gets into this retro groove and makes us "go left, right, up, down":



OTHER PLEASURES (GUILTY OR OTHERWISE):

"Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z featuring Alicia Keys - Sinatra would be proud.

"Haven't Met You Yet" by Michael Buble - My song choice for the opening credits to my own personal romantic comedy.

"Fireflies" by Owl City - Planet Earth will indeed turn slowly while listening to this sugary computerized confection from Adam Young, the man behind the love-it-or-hate-it single that made hipsters cringe and 14-year-olds swoon.

"Outta Here" by Esmee Denters - A fun pop track from an artist endorsed by Justin Timberlake...but bought by no one.

"I Did It For Love" by BoA - Trust me and YouTube the video to be blown away by a real dance video from the Janet Jackson of Asia.
_____________________________________________

And there we have it, kids. Hope the trip back was just as warm and fuzzy for you as it was for me.

Here's to new beginnings, realistic resolutions, new possibilities and sounding less like a cliche-spouting self-help guru.

Happy New Year.

H.P.M.


The Definition of Friends

Over the past few years, those who know me have seen me - camera in hand - always ready to capture a moment, immortalize a memory.

And while going over some footage, I decided to put together a little montage of moments I've shared with some friends of mine. Why? Because a) I'm a sucker for montages with sappy music. b) I'm currently addicted to iMovie on my new Mac and c) I love each and every one of my friends and realize how lucky I am to have such special people in my life. Consider this a little viral Christmas gift to those who have touched my life.

Allow me to introduce you to some of them:


All I Want For Christmas


Dear Santa,

Remember me? From New Rochelle, New York? Chubby 5-year-old recipient of Duncan, that Cabbage Patch Doll you dropped off at 45 Potter Avenue back in '85?

Hi.

I just wanted to drop a line since it's been nearly twenty years since we last communicated. Things have changed since then, to say the least, and I thought now would be a good time to catch you up to speed on where I'm at in my life and see if you're still accepting wish lists from 29-year-old writers who have nothing better to do than sit at a desk and obsessively analyze pop culture on a weekly basis. Don't worry, it's nothing too big or challenging, like your standard request for World Peace...or a comeback vehicle for Valerie Bertinelli. I realize you're no miracle worker, and I'm sure lugging around thousands of Guitar Heros for brats who pretty much don't even deserve a yo-yo must have you reaching for the Vicodin every few hours.

Not every item on this list is for me. Most of my friends and family haven't had the best year, and I think we all need some pick-me-ups in the coming months to keep the hope alive in all of our lives, some inspiration to help us get through and put behind the shit-stained drama we've had to endure in 2009 (my apologies for dropping the S-bomb).

So, without further ado...

500 Days of Summer on DVD. I just loved this movie. From the music to the art direction to the wardrobe to the brilliantly compiled soundtrack to its two charismatic leads...it was a sparkling, little indie-flavored rom-com that was a much-needed breath of fresh air in a summer stacked with superficial eye candy. One could seriously get lost in Zooey Deschanel's baby blues.

One friggin' chance to win the Reusable Grocery Bag Contest at Trader Joe's. Every other week I do my part to help the environment by bringing my recyclable carrier on every shopping excursion I make when I'm craving some Morningstar Farms veggie sausage patties and a pack of light string cheese. And every other week I fill out the little form at the checkout with the hope of being selected to win a gift card on my next visit. But after nearly three years, no dice. What's up with that?

A 42-inch plasma HDTV (Sony or Samsung)...Have you met me?

A well-paying job for my unemployed loved ones. May they be hired to do what they love to do. Economy schmeconomy.

A pair of tickets to Lady Gaga's Monster Ball Tour.

Several slaps in the face (and an occasional knuckle-punch) for the studio execs who think that greenlighting a remake of every single movie from my childhood is a good idea. Those guys were treading on dangerous ground when they were toying with that Rayven Simone version of Adventures in Babysitting. And if I see the words "Breakfast Club reimagining" printed anywhere in the future pages of Variety, I'm going to indeed crack some skulls.

An opportunity for a friend to realize just how much he is loved and what exciting things await him.

Some sense pounded in to anyone who purchased Sarah Palin's Going Rogue and honestly thought it was a well-written piece of patriotic literature that is to be studied in schools across the nation. I believe there have been Harlequin novels with more substantial chapters detailing the bronzed torso of a loyal and loving spouse.

A European vacation with my best friend.

A series pick-up (and a showrunner credit) for the friend who's toiled away at pilot script after pilot script in the past several weeks. May we see his name splash across our TV sets in the months to come.

A moment for all Americans to truly understand that what ultimately unites us is what makes us all different.

A ban on double standards.

A chance for everyone to realize that this time of year shouldn't be the only time of the year when compassion, giving and love is celebrated.

A Blu-Ray disc player to see what all the fuss is about.

A guided tour of England and Egypt for my mother, who's in need of more stamps on her passport.

Several flights on Japan Airlines for my father, who could use more face time with the family he has left in his homeland.

Some reassurance for the friend who doesn't know what he's going to do with his life. Things can only - and will - get better.

Courage for the friend who needs to create more possibilities for herself and quit the job she's grown to hate more and more every day.

A boost in self-love for the friend who thinks she'll never find someone who can love the self that she's learning to love.

Some extra confidence to take more risks, kick insecurities the curb and banish any lingering doubts keeping me from getting what I want.


Thanks for taking the time to read this, Santa. I realize you have millions of other e-mails to read and a very long list to check twice. Send my regards to Rudolph, and tell him us Westsiders are pulling for him to pull through that nasty H1N1 virus.

Sincerely,

H.P.M.
Current resident of Los Angeles, CA

*P.S. - Tell Mrs. Claus she still owes me twenty bucks from our little So You Think You Can Dance bet.


Video of the Year


Without a doubt.

Possibly the best music video since Beyonce told us to "put a ring on it."

May I present Lady Gaga, "Bad Romance." (And if you're just hearing about this now, where have you been in the last...8 hours?)


East Coast Serenade

I revisited some old stomping grounds last week. And I made a little video about it.


The Soundtrack to My Life: 1999-2009


Someday, when I'm asked the question "What was the first song you ever downloaded from the Internet?" I will have my answer ready (it's the first track listed below). I remember it the way a mother would remember her toddler's first spoken word.

I first started making mix CDs back in the fall of 1999 from a corner dorm room on the fifth floor of Boston University's Warren Towers. This was during the heyday Napster, before iPods or iAnythings had infiltrated the student body. Thanks to several dormmates whose CD burners I took advantage of, I was able to set aside the tape cassettes containing tunes I'd record off the radio (the 90s, so primitive) and put together improved compilations with better audio quality (MP3s, who knew?) and without snippets from those gabbing radio DJs who would always talk over the opening of a song (so annoying). With the help of my friend Christina, who had always relied on me for new tunage, I named this series of mixes Burnt, usually followed by a subtitle pertaining to whatever theme fit my life at the time.

As of this posting, I'm currently working on Volume 62. Take that, Now That's What I Call Music.


Before, I wasn't able to articulate why I loved making these mixes so much, both for myself and for friends and family. Now, I have realized that I get a genuine joy out of making people happy by introducing them to a new song they'll eventually grow to love, or when it comes to DJing at a party or private event, reminding them of a song they forgot they loved, helping them re-appreciate a song that sparks a special memory of their own (Adina Howard's "Freak Like Me" anyone?) and ultimately inspiring them to create a soundtrack to their own life.

When I had been booked to spin at The Pleasure Chest a few weeks ago, it brought a smile to my face to see employees bumping and grinding behind the counters, to watch them try to reenact the choreography to Janet's "Escapade," to have a woman walk by and say to me "Great song," when I put on a little Jamiroquai, to overhear a customer tell her friend "Oh my God, I love this song!" when Mark Morrison's "Return of the Mack" started pumping through the speakers. I like to think that I had a slight effect on someone's life and made their world a better place, even if it was just for one of those three hours.

More of testament to my evolving taste in music than just another greatest hits collection from a decade's worth of mix CDs, the following megalist of tunes also represents certain moments from my life. Consider it the definitive soundtrack to my 20s.

This list starts during the peak of the Teen Pop Boom, back when bubblegum ruled the airwaves -- back when TRL was appointment television -- then it transitions to fit a subsequently darker, post-9/11 mood, guides me through a second coming-of-age, follows me to sunny Los Angeles as a hopeful post-grad, helps me cope with a quarter-life crisis, opens my ears to what European imports have to offer, inspires me as a writer, aggravates my frustration with Top 40 radio, and introduces me to new ideas (and an epiphany or two) as I prepare to embrace a new milestone. Some tracks are laughable, almost embarrassing in retrospect, but most have admirably stood the test of time.

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, fellow bloggers and tweeters, I give you my personalized Best of the Aughts, all 70 of 'em (in chronological order, natch). And if you've never heard of a particular song, may I strongly suggest downloading it right away...legally of course.

1. Waiting for Tonight - Jennifer Lopez
2. Larger Than Life - Backstreet Boys
3. Here With Me - Dido
4. What a Girl Wants - Christina Aguilera
5. Bring it All to Me - Blaque feat. NSYNC
6. My Own Worst Enemy - Lit
7. Bye Bye Bye - NSYNC
8. Back Here - BBMak
9. Case of the Ex - Mya
10. There You Go - Pink
11. Everything You Want - Vertical Horizon
12. Kryptonite - 3 Doors Down
13. No More - Ruff Endz
14. It Wasn't Me - Shaggy
15. He Loves U Not - Dream
16. In My Pocket - Mandy Moore
17. All For You - Janet Jackson
18. Fill Me In - Craig David
19. Lady Marmalade - Pink, Mya, Lil Kim & Christina Aguilera
20. In The End - Linkin Park
21. Wherever You Will Go - The Calling
22. Wish I Didn't Miss You Anymore (Hex Hector Mix) - Angie Stone
23. Rapture - Iio
24. Heaven - DJ Sammy
25. Gangsta Lovin' - Eve & Alicia Keys
26. Dirrty - Christina Aguilera
27. The Game of Love - Santana feat. Michelle Branch
28. Gotta Get Thru This - Daniel Bedingfield
29. Simply Being Loved - BT
30. Morning Star - Cooler Kids
31. Milkshake - Kelis
32. It Takes More - Ms. Dynamite
33. This Love - Maroon 5
34. Crazy in Love - Beyonce feat. Jay-Z
35. Hey Ya - Outkast
36. Toxic - Britney Spears
37. Mr. Brightside - The Killers
38. What You Waiting For - Gwen Stefani
39. Don't Phunk With My Heart - Black Eyed Peas
40. Lose Control - Missy Elliot feat. Ciara
41. Speed of Sound - Coldplay
42. Oh My Gosh - Basement Jaxx
43. Hung Up - Madonna
44. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
45. Crazy - Alanis Morissette
46. Hard to Beat - Hard-FI
47. Faster Kill Pussycat - Paul Oakenfold feat. Brittany Murphy
48. Buttons - Pussycat Dolls
49. Mama's Room - Under the Influence of Giants
50. Stars Align - Kaskade
51. Everything's Just Wonderful - Lily Allen
52. Umbrella - Rihanna
53. Rehab - Amy Winehouse
54. The Way I Are - Timbaland feat. Keri Hilson
55. Time to Pretend - MGMT
56. Black and Gold - Sam Sparro
57. Mercy - Duffy
58. Fascination - Alphabeat
59. Just Dance - Lady Gaga
60. Hometown Glory - Adele
61. American Boy - Estelle
62. Sex on Fire - Kings of Leon
63. The Man Who Can't Be Moved - The Script
64. I Did It For Love - Boa
65. When Love Takes Over - David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland
66. Evacuate the Dancefloor - Cascada
67. Road Trip - Darin
68. We Are The People - Empire of the Sun
69. Million Dollar Bill - Whitney Houston
70. Vacant Heart - Frankmusik


What's on our your soundtrack?

H.P.M.

*Above photo courtesy of Forest Casey


Random Thought of the Week #12


What is Elisabeth Shue doing right now?

Fun fact: She won the Best Actress Award for Adventures in Babysitting...at the Paris Film Festival in 1987.

Seriously.

H.P.M.


When Hiko Met Oprah


Much like Kathy Griffin, I have a daydream in which I get booked to be a guest on Oprah in order to promote and talk about my book, The First Echo: Memoirs of a Pop Culture Junkie.

And after reading the foreword in Ms. Griffin's current book, I was slightly disappointed to find out that she opens her memoirs the same way I would begin mine. Hers is a more desperate plea of a love letter to visit those Harpo Studios, sit on that Chicago stage, and shoot the shit with Gayle. My opening would be a more detailed envisioning, from the outfit Oprah would wear (something purple) to the spontaneously combusting housewives in the audience who just can't hold it together because it's Oprah. Muthaf**king. Winfrey. Oh, and then there's the introduction O would give me, announcing my name in her trademark vowel stretching: "Please welcome Hikoooooooo!" We sit, she gushes, and then she tells me to stick around for the surprise celebrity guest who's a fan of my book - and waiting backstage to come out as a segueway for the next portion of the show. After all, it's Live Fridays on The Oprah Winfrey Show, and we got to keep it moving along. And as for that celeb guest, I still haven't gotten that far. I'm thinking it's Drew Barrymore, Kathy Griffin (in an ironic twist) or Jennifer Aniston.

And it wouldn't stop there. Naturally, my book tour would take me to my native New York where I'd sit on the couch with the ladies of The View. Unfortunately it would have to be on a day when Elisabeth was on maternity leave after giving birth to her eleventh child. Whoopi would be awesome as expected and call me "boy" after flubbing up my last name. Barbara would be grandmotherly and look more frail in person (I think to myself: Someone give this poor woman a can of Ensure). Joy would be a blast as we'd share an inside joke from backstage (pertaining to the book, because she'd be the only one who had read it). And Sherri would crack me up as we both proclaim our love for Costco's All-American Chocolate Cake on national TV. The interview would last for a pleasant eight minutes, and before she forgets, Joy reminds the in-studio and at-home audience that I will be signing copies later that day at the Barnes & Noble in Union Square. She then thanks me for coming and tells the studio audience that they'll be getting a copy of my book. Cheers. Applause. Commercial break.

Once I get back to L.A. I'd have to rush over to the westside to fulfill my stint on Chelsea Lately. Sandwiched in between comedians Josh Wolfe and Sarah Colonna on the roundtable, we'd trade quips and jabs at Amy Winehouse, Kate Gosselin and why Renee Zellwegger insists on looking like she just ate a dozen lemons every time she walks a red carpet. Chelsea would say she's impressed by my ability to keep up with the Kardashians and sees a future for me on upcoming roundtables (that is, if my book doesn't take off and outshine Are You There Vodka? It's Me Chelsea). A few koslopus references later, I'm taking pictures with Chuy backstage and later posting them to a Facebook album entitled "Booktourapalooza 2011."

I would be living out one of my dreams as a writer who has managed to turn his bloggage into a bestselling book (See? I knew those headshots would come in handy). And I'd still be blogging from the road, complaining about how exhausting the tour is, how non-stop the schedules are - you know, the usual woe-is-me-but-look-how-fun-it-is routine. Besides, I've always wanted to see the rest of America, even if it's from the third-story window of a hotel suite. And it would be during all of this traveling when I learn the different ways to tell people, "Talk to my publicist."

It would only be a matter of time before cable comes knocking on my door with the option to adapt my memories into a one-hour dramedy. Network execs would throw names at me, stars who never really broke out in film but could translate well on TV. Naturally, I tell them, I would need executive producing credit. Done they say. Show me my parking space I say. What do you think of setting the series in Seattle? they ask. But I grew up in New York I say. But Seattle is hot right now they insist. What is this, Grey's Anatomy? I retort. And then we proceed to go our separate ways, each side quoting the obligatory "creative differences" until an indie shingle over at a major studio wants to develop my story as a feature film. Do I get to write the screenplay? I ask. Sure they respond. Cool I say. We get a director attached, along with a kickass cinematographer, land a few up-and-coming actors whose resumes are sprinkled with guest stints on a couple of Law & Orders and short-lived CW dramas and a lead actor who rocks the industry with his "brave and raw" performance...and suddenly, wham-bam, we got ourselves a movie which makes waves at Sundance, collects an Independent Spirit Award the following year and gets slotted on Entertainment Weekly's Must List.

I picture one of those network execs stuffing his foot in his mouth after seeing my name prominently mentioned in Variety. Perhaps he sends me a congratulatory gift basket filled with processed cheese and dried fruit I'll never eat (or pass along to Martha, the security guard who greets me every morning as I drive to my office on the studio lot).

No bridges are completely burned though, especially when I bump into said network exec two years later while reaching for the same piece of tuna sashimi at an Emmy afterparty on Sunset. We laugh, we congratulate each other on our respective projects and we then bump each other's contacts into our iPhones with the promise to keep in touch...or grab a chai tea on Robertson the following week.

And that, as they say, is just the beginning...

H.P.M.

*This message of positive visualization has been brought to you by: a workout at 24-Hour Fitness, scrambled egg whites and two shots of espresso. What do YOU see for yourself?


The Love Lives of Others


"But everyone's a vacant heart, when will love move in?
It's in the news that we all lose when love ain't moving in.
I only have these empty rooms, and they're all filled with space,
And I can't seem to find much love in this place,
And the doors that close behind leave me standing cold outside..."


- "Vacant Heart" by Frankmusik


After witnessing the stress, heartache and overall relationship drama several of my closest friends have gone through in the past year (2009, you've been quite the banner year for breakups), it's easy to subscribe to the Why Bother? school of thought. Why bother entering a relationship when it will only end in tears, disappointment and destroyed trust? Why bother being with someone who will eventually let you down and shatter every expectation you had ever had? Why bother taking the risk? Why gamble with your emotions?

All of these questions only imply a sense of hopelessness, which can lead to cynicism, which can only lead to Complete, Bitter Loneliness. And who wants a nasty case of CBL, really? For lack of a more trite sentiment, life is one giant risk, and that should be exciting, inspiring. The choices you make will either lead you to happiness or leave a nice bite mark on your ass. And either way, there's always a lesson to learn hidden within the distracting minutiae (Blogger's note: I really just wanted to write the word "minutiae." I think it's becoming one of my favorite words...but I digress).

Clearly, other people's relationships shouldn't determine or influence the relationships you have with others, or more importantly, the one you have with yourself. The latter is something I've been working on for some time now. What happens in the lives of others usually forces me to reflect on what's happening in my own. And when I reflect, I tend to do so in a non-linear, stream-of-consciousness kind of way. And when I reflect, I tend to be hard on myself, letting insecurities get the best of me and allowing the Bad Voices in my head to crap on my self-esteem when I should really just tell them to Shut. The. Fuck. Up.

I've always been the friend who sits across from his friend, listening to the details behind said friend's relationship drama, offering a Kleenex when the waterworks break out, opening my arms for some solace, reserving my shoulder for a droopy chin. I don't mind being that friend. I appreciate any chance I get to have some one-on-one quality time with a loved one; it's an opportunity to grow closer and learn more about each other. But as one who hasn't had the pleasure of being in a legit, long-term relationship, I feel like I have no substantial advice to offer from personal experience. My advice (or jumbled words of wisdom) tends to come from what I've observed in the relationships of others...or what I've learned from watching countless romantic comedies since the age of 13 (And believe it or not, from what I've noticed thus far, Sex and the City continues to function as a relationship bible for many singles who will still place their trust and faith in the powers of SJP & Co., using the series, subconsciously or not, as a default reference guide for the successes and shitstorms they face while wading through the dating pool...and the show's been off the air for more than five years).

Last time I checked, the framed diploma on my wall didn't license me to play Love Doctor for the heartbroken.

After listening to a friend's wailings and offering as much consolation as I can, I can't help but wonder how I would handle such a crisis if I were in their shoes. In a way, it's as if I've become the designated sidekick/best friend in a much longer-running and warped rom-com...and it's about time I become my own romantic lead.

I take back my earlier comment about 2009 being a banner year for breakups; it's become the Year of the Transition. I don't know whether or not it's because we're getting ready to close the doors on this decade, but many people I know are making life-altering decisions, changing their scenery, redirecting their life paths. Is it just me? Is it the country? Is it this city? After all, Los Angeles -- and I'm sure many of you won't disagree with me -- exists on its own planet. The values in this town aren't the same as they are in Anywhere, USA where raising two kids and securing a three-bedroom on a cul-de-sac with a Volvo wagon parked in the driveway is the main objective. The ambition here most likely involves getting one's name splashed across one of those mega billboards on Sunset Boulevard. And in order to achieve this, one has to keep reinventing oneself, re-prioritizing one's goals.

For me, part of my current transition involves painting my bedroom wall a new color (thanks Restoration Hardware), framing new artwork to hang in the living room, booking my first gig as a DJ, forming a business partnership (more on that later), taking myself out on dates (reserving more Me Time), exploring undiscovered parts of the city, putting a stop on feeling sorry for myself, and making lists...lots of lists. Basically, finding new ways to be inspired.

Here's to clearing out the clutter, both physically and mentally, in all of our lives.

H.P.M.

"And when you find someone who loves the you that you love, well, that's just fabulous."


I'm With the DJ


If you haven't heard, I will be what kids call "spinning" at The Pleasure Chest in West Hollywood on Saturday October 3. The Pleasure Chest is a store where you can buy furry handcuffs, DVDs labeled with lots of X's, and devices of the rubbery and vibrating kind. It's an L.A. landmark.

Fun is to be had. Beats are to be played. And your groove is to be...gotten on?

Stop by and say hi, won't you?


And It's 1994 All Over Again...


Going home tonight to catch the first episode of this much-hyped reboot...and trying to keep my expectations low. I mean, really, no prime-time soap can come close to laundry room bombs, cult-joining strippers, breastfeeding kidnappers and bedhopping ad execs (Sorry, Mad Men's Sterling Cooper, you got nothing on those bitches at D&D).

I'm crossing my fingers (and ordering a pizza).

H.P.M.


L.A. Is On Fire


...and not in a Rolling Stone Hot 100 Issue kind of way. And no, that isn't a screencap from some alien invasion disaster pic.





Photos courtesy of The Los Angeles Times.


I've Been Converted


First a BlackBerry...and now this.

Folks, I've gone Mac.

Swung by the Apple Store at the Grove last night and, with some friends by my side to witness the delivery, I became the proud father of a titanium 13.5-inch MacBook Pro. And a sweet bonus: I got a free iPod Classic and printer on top of the discount I got for flashing my college ID (um, yeah. I know).

PC, please don't feel betrayed. I still use you at work. It's just...I go both ways now.

H.P.M.


Melrose Invasion

The billboards are everywhere here in L.A., and if you live anywhere near the actual Place, chances are you've seen at least a dozen of these declaring "Tuesday's the new humpday" or "Tuesdays are a bitch."

I am eagerly awaiting the September 8 premiere even though I hear the pilot is crap. I'm really just in it for Michael and Sydney (how are they gonna explain that one? However, I do hear things improve by episode 3, albeit without the high camp factor that made Season 3 of the original series primetime soap nirvana.




Where Was I?

So, after several months of producing shorts, whoring myself on the film festival circuit, traveling back East, dabbling in several freelance writing gigs, making deadlines, suffering from delusions of VIP grandeur and continuing to carry out my editor duties on the new and improved HotterInHollywood.com -- on top of a full-time day job -- I feel that I must apologize for neglecting my firstborn, The First Echo, and not giving it the same love and attention with which I've been showering my other projects.

As expected, summer is whooshing by at the speed of light, and I -- like many of those youngin's who will soon have fresh pencils to sharpen, notebooks to crack open and overpriced textbooks to purchase -- am sad to see it go. Although some argue that summer never really ends here in Los Angeles, our collective consciousness tells us that, no matter what the climate, Fall isn't too far off with its promises of cashmere goodness, pumpkin-spiced lattes and exciting new television to become addicted to.

Summer 2009, I will miss you.

This was the summer I jumped on the BlackBerry bandwagon, but please don't take this to mean that I will be available every second of every minute of every day of my already chaotic life.

This was the summer I finally got around to reading Chelsea Handler's My Horizontal Life, taking notes from each chronicle of her hilarious one-night stands.

This was the summer I fully appreciated "Beat It."

This was the summer I felt proud to have a framed poster of The Breakfast Club hanging on my bedroom wall.

This was the summer I learned more about myself in a drunken stupor while on vacation.

This was the summer I was completely turned off by cottage cheese (really, I would would rather eat the leftover contents of a Burger King bag left on the side of the road).

This was the summer I, along with a bottle of cabernet, helped a close friend cope with drama I would never want to go through myself.

This was the summer I was proud of (and inspired by) a friend for taking a chance and pursuing what he wanted.

This was the summer I saw my checking account balance hold steady at four figures for several weeks.

This was the summer I questioned the worth of several kinds of relationships I've observed over the years.


This was the summer Michael Bay really got on my f**king nerves (again).

This was the summer I rediscovered my guilty pleasure in Billy Ocean.

This was the summer I befriended steel-cut oatmeal.

This was this summer I learned how to properly walk a red carpet.

This was the summer I gave myself a kick in the ass to get my priorities straightened and my goals clarified.


This was the summer I saw the Milky Way at 7,600 feel altitude and was in complete awe.

This was the summer I found myself, for some odd reason, repeatedly flashing back to 1996 (more on that later perhaps).

This was the summer I became infatuated with Nurse Jackie, the Glee version of Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," and the insane choreography on SYTYCD.

This was the summer I traveled to six cities with five different friends in four different modes of transportation and lost three pounds due to two bad meals eaten in one week.

This was the summer I purchased an Flip videocamera, but in no way does this mean all of y'all will be treated to annoying, self-indulging video diaries from yours truly. Vlogs aren't my thing...yet.

Thank you, Summer of '09, for making these past several months an emotionally exhilarating time in my life. I have plenty of pictures stored in my albums to remember you by and -- as anyone who knows me can guess -- the accompanying mix CDs to act as personal soundtracks that will help me look back at these moments with laughter, a little embarrassment and a true appreciation for what you've blessed me with.

On to the Halloween costume brainstorming...

H.P.M.


Random Thought of the Week #11

Not so much a random thought as it is a declaration...

I finally got a friggin' BlackBerry. An 8830 World Edition, to be exact. You know, for when I'll be hopping around the globe on tour. Ain't it cute?

Let the madness begin.


The Seven-Year Bitch


Last month I took a dip in a pool of Douchebaggery.

I had been called "Bro" for the very first time in my life by a dude who could have easily stepped out of a casting session for VH1's Tool Academy. Greased hair. A tan on top of a tan. Shirt unbuttoned well below the chest. Corona in hand. All that was missing was an Ed Hardy trucker cap and a T-shirt reading "Megan Fox, Call Me." I'm sure this fine young gentleman had the best intentions and was well accomplished beyond his achievements in beer pong and Grand Theft Auto.

I was introduced to said greaser and several of his characteristically similar friends when I stopped by Julie's apartment in Studio City to drop off her belated birthday card and kill some time before my Saturday night plans started to take shape (gone was the plan to meet up with Swaga at a BET party somewhere in the hills). When I arrived, Julie was prepping herself for a night on the town with a bunch of girlfriends. When said hoochifying was complete, she invited me to tag along with them on their excursion to Red Rock and Skybar (read: the Sunset Strip). Although I would have appreciated the opportunity to receive all the benefits that come with hanging out with a harem of hot chicks -- breezing by bouncers, free shots of Patron -- I felt the urge to stop for some pump-it-yourself fro yo at The Yogurt Stop in West Hollywood instead before heading home to enjoy the comforts of my newly purchased sofa.

"At least stay for a while and come to my neighbor's party before we leave," Julie told me. Which I did.


Her neighbors, four dudes in their early 20s sharing a 2-bedroom apartment, were throwing a birthday party for one of their own. It was the perfect occasion for the ladies to do a little pre-gaming. Walking in, I expected a frat warehouse full of kegs and neon beer signs prominently displayed on the patio. Not quite. The apartment was well-kept, subtly mismatched yet minimally decorated with the best Ikea could offer. Navy blue accent wall. Sleek, white entertainment unit. And a "coffee table" better suited for an outdoor terrace.

The birthday boy (all names were forgotten the instant I shook everyone's hand) was turning the big 2-4 and had been living in L.A. for only six months. "Still a newbie," I observed, going through the obligatory round of questions that never seem to get tired: Where are you originally from? What do you do? Texas and an actor, in case you're wondering.

It was hard to maintain any interest in the conversations that went on with most of the party people. Yes, everyone was in good spirits, merrily drinking the night away with the hopes of getting a phone number, or better yet, a little late-night PG-13 play. However, I couldn't shake off the feeling that I had been here before, that I had once lived this very scene, but with different characters. As Whitney Houston and Deborah Cox once sang, "Same script, different cast." There was also an air of enthusiastic naivete that hung over the room, and it felt slightly nauseating after a while.

It felt like I was a senior back in college, focused on my post-graduate aspirations, and I was infiltrating a mixer full of freshmen adjusting to the confines of their first dorm room. These fresh-off-the-road-trip twentysomethings were the freshmen, and L.A. was their campus. I was the been-around-the-block veteran still waiting for a break.
7 Years of Hiko

The end of June, as some of you know, marks my seven-year anniversary of living in Los Angeles. This is the time when I take a look at my life, analyze the crap out of it and mentally beat myself up for not having accomplished more than I should have. In other words, act like a 29-year-old continuing to find his niche in The Big Scary World while constantly re-prioritizing his goals. However, I've learned to "just keep swimming," continue to count the positives and appreciate and celebrate what I've achieved thus far. And in the past year, it's been this: Traveled to cities I had always wanted to visit, made a couple of new friends who are quickly moving up the ranks on my list of Favorite People in the World, became a producer (with the credits and callsheets to prove it) and received several actual paychecks for my writing. This list of accomplishments is not to be interpreted as complete and utter bragging but as a reminder of how far I have yet to go and a message for everyone to do the same so that you can look back and inspire yourself to keep at it.

Maybe I've been listening to "Don't Stop Believin'" too many times, especially this version which I can't shake off...


Someone wise (I think it was Barbara Walters on The View) once said to ask yourself the following question: Would your former self from 10 years ago recognize and like who you are today? Let's see. Back in the summer of 1999, I had been obsessed with BSB's "I Want It That Way," did a brief stint at my uncle's debt collecting agency, shacked up with a bunch of middle-aged matrons filing books at the New Rochelle Public Library and didn't think much about life beyond the borders of Westchester County, New York. It had also been the year when I visited L.A. for the first time in my life (funny enough). Having just watched the series finale two months prior, I had been psyched to visit the real-life Melrose Place. Who knew, ten years later...

I think the Hiko from ten - hell, seven - years ago would be impressed by the Now Hiko. I think he'd want to be me.
hollywood blvd

After seven years of countless Pinkberry pit stops, buttery buckets of Arclight popcorn and semi-narcissistic blogging about what I've done/who've I seen, I have come to the conclusion that I've made L.A. my bitch. It's amazing how many nooks and crannies I've covered in this city...From the ghetto-fabulous 99-Cent Store in Silverlake where I saw a drunk woman flash her boob in the dried food aisle to the seafood shack in Malibu where I once overloaded on fried clam strips...From the porn shop-riddled streets of Van Nuys to the glossy cosmetics countertops of Barney's in Beverly Hills...From the hipsterific coffeeshops of Los Feliz to the WASPy havens of Pasadena...I like to think that I have experienced more than the average Angeleno can take within such a time span.

Why spend cash on a sleazy tour guide when you have me to show you around for the cost of a nice dinner on La Cienega?

I'm starting to treat my Los Angeles Anniversary as a second birthday, another milestone reached during which I become another year wiser. And wiser is what I definitely feel whenever I glance at June 27 on the Edward Gorey calendar that hangs above my desk. Every year there's something great and significant to be learned. For instance, back in 2004, I learned the 110 Freeway is one helluva shortcut to Long Beach from downtown (among other navigational tidbits in this labyrinthine La La Land). In 2006, I learned that working on a critically-acclaimed network drama still doesn't get you an audience (or sponsors for that matter, especially when using Jesus as a vehicle for Vicodin). And it was last year when I had started acquiring a taste for real estate, realizing that I need to accumulate more assets in my life (Thanks Rich Dad, Poor Dad). For the first time, the word "adulthood" sounded less scary and more promising.

I know the lessons will never stop and will always be unexpected, some fun and some painful. This past year's lesson isn't so much a lesson as it is an observation: Success in this town isn't always measured by how many cars you have or how many properties you own. What really gauges one's level of success is how many people secretly envy you, how many ulterior motives linger behind every smile that greets you, how many unspoken wishes are made to be like you, to have what you have. Of course, this is subjective. Ego definitely plays a role in determining who you are and how delusional your outlook can get. Just because you're hot shit (for now) doesn't mean everybody wants a piece of you. Modesty can go a long way; it's a lesson that's often difficult to learn.

The older one gets (I might as well be considered middle-aged now, the standards are so fascinatingly warped in this city), the hotter the competition feels. For every Facebook status announcing your short film's festival screening, there are at least two more behind it, celebrating a friend's band landing a hot gig at the Roxy...or the recurring non-speaking role of Secretary #2 another friend just booked on the upcoming season of Mad Men. There's a silent game of one-uppance that's played almost every week amongst friends here. Bordering on full-blown bragging, these rounds of show-and-tell take the shape of email blasts (raising my hand - guilty), postcards passed around at parties, Evites celebrating a promotion, and IMs linking to personal red carpet photo albums. While some of these are genuine pleas for friendly support, others are just flashy ways of saying, "Look what I did!"

Pimping yourself out is a necessity here.

"I love the audience. And the audience loves me for
loving them. And I love them for loving me. And
we just love each other. That's because none of us got
enough love in our childhood."
- Roxie Hart


And everyone here in WhoYouKnowville gets it. These L.A. folk happily play along, congratulating you on the book deal you nabbed and then downplaying it with an "I could do that." It all comes down to this: Everyone wants a piece of the pie, a slice bigger than the one before, and you have to roll with the punches, or in this case, the seemingly friendly pats on the back. I truly believe there's no other city where such ambition, delusion and rejection coexist on such a level (Don't worry, NYC, you're up there too).

And after seven years, I'm still loving the insanity of it all. Los Angeles, I'm in it for the long haul. Go ahead and blow those Santa Ana winds in my face. Jam those boulevards and freeways with asshole drivers. You can even dump into Hollywood more of the same fresh-faced (and competitive) wannabes who are just jonesing for a job with J.J. Abrams.

I'm not going anywhere.

H.P.M.


Stealing Sucks

Voila!

The second anti-piracy PSA I produced in the Stealing Sucks series has made its way to the interwebs. Directed by my wonderfully talented and good friend Michael Medico (Head HIHer), this is the project that had consumed most of my life for the month of May.

We couldn't be any prouder of the finished product. Enjoy:



H.P.M.


The Warm Up: Summer 2009, Vol. 1


So, you hated the new Terminator. You're pumped for the new season of So You Think You Can Dance. And you can smell those 4th of July hot dogs right around the corner. Yes, summer is steppin' out, ready to bewilder, bewitch and bother. And what's summer without another mix compiled by yours truly?

Go ahead, sync this playlist to your iPod and toss it in the beach bag next to that trashy paperback and SPF 30. You can thank me when the last track is played...

1. "Outta Here" by Esmee Denters:



2. "Road Trip" by Darin

3. "Goodbye" by Kristinia DeBarge

4. "Energetic" by BoA

5. "I Do Not Hook Up" by Kelly Clarkson

6. "Battlefield" by Jordin Sparks - Thankfully, no Pat Benatar samples found here.

7. "In the Heat of the Night" by Star Pilots

8. "Let's Get Excited" by Alesha Dixon:



9. "Blame It" by Jamie Foxx - The perfect excuse for that steamy one-night stand after your friend's beach party.

10. "Wanted" by Jessie James - Sample her HERE.

11. "Fire Burning" by Sean Kingston:



12. "When Love Takes Over" by David Guetta feat. Kelly Rowland - Possibly the definitive dance single of the summer.

13. "Mad World" by Adam Lambert

14. "Walking on a Dream" by Empire of the Sun - See what all the fuss is about HERE.

15. "Black Coffin" by His Orchestra

16. "Use Somebody (RAC Remix)" by Kings of Leon

17. "Lonely Alcholic" by Mika - Dedicated to that sad drunk girl you see at every barbecue and pool party you attend.

18. "Rubber Lover" by Marmaduke Duke:



19. "Just Like That" by Danny

20. "Stand and Deliver" by No Doubt

21. "No Boundaries" by Kris Allen - It's definitely not summer without another Midwest-skewering pop-rock single from the latest Idol winner. You'll like it...for a week.

22. "A Little Too Not Over You (Jason Nevins Remix)" by David Archuleta - This single from The Little Mormon That Could gets a club makeover that's so damn irresistible, you won't mind those puppy-love lyrics.


Baby's First Film Festival


Bitch, the short film I produced with Michael (as in Medico, the director), made its film fest debut at the British Film Festival earlier this month. The Custom Hotel hosted a pre-party for the premiere of Stiff Luv during which our little, low-budget baby was screened for an audience at the Redondo Beach Performing Arts Center. Needless to say, it was a late night (read: midnight screening).


The poolside party was a blur of pomegranate mojitos, flashing lights and semi-sincere schmoozing under the stars.

Thanks to Brandon Klock for the red carpet snapshots. Having our own private paparazzi for those few minutes while buzzed on cheap champagne was quite awesome.

And just think, we got two more of these to look forward to this summer: QFest in Philadelphia and Outfest here in Los Angeles. Both in the same week.


Bring. It. On.

H.P.M.