And I haven't even started reading the final book. I know, I know.
Shame. On. Me.
Damn, this looks good.
When I moved to Los Angeles eight years ago today, a movie ticket at the Arclight was a mere $11.50, the Target in West Hollywood had yet to drain the wallets of countless singletons looking for a deal on laundry detergent, and the 101/405 Freeway interchange in Sherman Oaks was under construction, making the over-the-hill commute a daily pain in the ass for anyone with a job in the Valley.
When I moved to Los Angeles eight years ago today, I slept on an Aero Bed on the floor of several apartments, my DVD library consisted of 20 movies, I listened to my pop compilations (gulp) on a Discman, and the thought of housesitting in the hills and driving the boss's Lexus for three months seemed like something straight out of an 80s movie starring James Spader or Michael J. Fox.
If I were to dig up old pictures of myself from the summer of 2002 (actual photographs, mind you; I didn't own a digicam until the following Christmas), I would see a fresh-faced Boston University grad, unsure of himself, a little scared, a little clueless, but a whole lot of excited. The blueprint for the rest of my 20s had been as follows: become a PA, transition into a writer's assistant on a show, be surrounded by scripts all day, perhaps become a script coordinator, get handed an episode to write on my own, pump out a couple of specs, land some representation, become staffed on another show, rub elbows with a showrunner, sell my own pilot (like Josh Schwartz), become an executive producer and ultimately squeal with delight as I see my name credited on screen.
Needless to say, that particular trail was never fully blazed. However, the path that I have taken instead has not been so far off. Eight years ago I couldn't have imagined where I would go, who I would meet, what I would experience. And for those places that I have visited, for those special individuals who have touched my life, and for those unforgettable experiences that have enriched me - I am grateful. After all, isn't it the journey that counts, not the destination?
To celebrate this momentous day, I took myself on a date to see a matinee of Knight and Day, indulged in a medium popcorn and iced mocha, and purchased a paperback novel at Barnes and Noble that shall remain on my bookshelf for a good year or two before I actually read it. The movie was okay (enjoyed the random nod to Hall & Oates). The iced mocha was a caloriefest I could've done without. And the mystery book seemed like it would make a great pageturner (Stephen King said so on the back cover).
To make the special day complete, I ended up at the Hollywood Bowl for a Goldfrapp concert with a couple of friends. Going to the Bowl during the summer is a magical experience, and not just because of the copious amounts of doobage that's usually passed around the amphitheater. Attending a concert at the Bowl is a rite of passage for any Angeleno, and once you have a few shows under your belt, you know what to expect. You become a master at packing the perfect picnic basket (or in my case, a picnic Marc Jacobs shopping tote). You know which secret side streets are good for parking while avoiding the nightmarish stacked lots on Highland Avenue (it's worth the four-block hike). You know how to dress appropriately (a sweatshirt always comes in handy). And you know to keep an eye out for anyone you may know (besides the requisite celebs). Within the first three minutes of arriving at the hillside gates, I bumped into four acquaintances. Then there were four more I greeted while waiting in line for some cheese plates and sushi at the Patina-run concession stand. And let's not forget the five other friends who, after catching my Facebook status, texted me to say they were there as well.
Notable famous faces: two. Brittany Snow and newly-minted lesbian Meredith Baxter.
Consider the Bowl a vacuum of familiar faces and good vibes. It's one of the few spots in this city where you can have a communal experience, physically brushing shoulders with people in the open air, which is rare to do when most of your day can be spent behind a steering wheel. And it's magical nights like this that can make a guy feel good about living in the City of Angels, about the choices he's made, the things he's accomplished.
The other night I happened to scroll through the hundreds of pics I have saved in my iPhoto library. This unplanned trip through memory lane got me all sentimental and made me realize (once again) how frickin' fast time flies. Eight years, seven bosses, six visits to San Francisco, five film festivals, four Vegas road trips, three apartments, two fender benders, and one dozen bicoastal comments later...here I am.
More surprises await. More pages are to be turned. More miles are to be driven. That said, I look forward to the next eight years. I mean, if I've made it this far, then any plans to move back east would be as likely as Miley Cyrus winning a Grammy.
In other words, I've only just begun.
It gets better the more I play it. And who knew Tyson Ritter (from The All-American Rejects) could be a near-vocal substitute for Justin Timberlake? The song is "I'm in Love With You," Timbaland's latest oil-and-vinegar pairing that - get this - actually works. With just the right amount of slick layering and a celebratory chorus you just want to clap to, this superfun track (found on an upcoming EP only avail in certain parts of the world - natch) is a welcome addition to my ever-growing summer soundtrack:
Finally! Someone made a song about everyone's favorite day of the week (because that's when you're supposed "to get down tonight"), sprinkled on some Pussycat Doll rejects, and set it to a thumpingly interchangeable bass. What would you expect from the generic yet slightly irresistible Basshunter? Ladies and gents, here's "Saturday":
Had JC Chasez not already taken the name Schizophrenic for his solo debut back in 2004, Christina Aguilera may have wanted to consider using that title for her latest album. The Dirrty Mom's fourth studio album (really, that Spanish album, Christmas collection and bootleg LP didn't count) marches in like an electro-alt-pop lion and goes out like a vulnerable lamb.
One thing's for certain: the girl can do ballads, which are rare to find in Top 40 Radioland nowadays since every Auto-Tuned Tom, Dick and Ke$ha is (unfortunately) dominating the landscape. With "I Am," Christina wisely tethers her powerhouse vocals to channel her inner Regina Spektor while following a lyrical structure of which Alanis Morissette would approve. "You Lost Me" could have been a lost track from her previous effort, 2006's Back to Basics, as it comes off more as a bluesy plea for forgiveness...and attention.
As for Xtina's electronic punk side, "Elastic Love" is a jolting exercise in experimental techno-pop. "Woo Hoo," the follow-up single that shouldn't have been the follow-up single, employs Lil Kim enemy Nicki Minaji to provide a dancehall vibe that sounds a tad too familiar. The title track is a hip-hop-tinged groove that Timbaland probably wishes he produced. "Desnudate" unabashedly cribs from Britney's "Get Naked," only adding a few Spanish words to remind us that Christina's got some Latina roots she needs to tap into every so often.
Among her strongest tracks, "Prima Donna" acts as the album's obligatory look-out-world-I'ma-run-this-joint anthem. Slow jam "Sex for Breakfast" is reminiscent of early 90s Janet Jackson. "Lift Me Up" is clearly Bionic's "Beautiful" (for those who caught her performing this power ballad during February's Haiti benefit, you know what I'm talking about). "My Girls," her collaboration with electro goddess Peaches, is tailor-made for Saturday night joyrides (as is the stomping "I Hate Boys"). And "Vanity" is a tongue-in-cheek ode to overinflated confidence: "I make myself so much wetter," boasts our cocky gal. It's a total throwaway, but it sticks.
As for those bonus tracks found only on the Deluxe Edition, Christina gets her Blondie on with "Monday Morning," transforms into a hollaback girl on "Bobblehead," and wades in electronic bliss on "Birds of Prey," a hypnotic, supersonic piece of trancey fluff.
It's unfortunate that the inevitable Lady Gaga comparisons are overshadowing the apparent effort and talent that went into this album. Sure, Gaga may be the standard du jour in Pop Divadom, but let's not forget just how reinventive Ms. Aguilera was at the turn of the 21st century. May I suggest revisiting the "Fighter" video to note how drastic of a transformation the former Mouseketeer went through in order to prove herself. In a perfect pop music world, Bionic and Back to Basics should have swapped release dates. Perhaps B2B would have stood out more and fared better (critically speaking) in the current pop climate, avoiding any Gaga-related backlash. But then again, you can't tell an artist what to do, especially when their music is a self-proclaimed autobiography, an emotional display of where they are, spiritually/sexually/physically, at this point in their life.
Clearly not her strongest album, Bionic still outshines the efforts of most pop artists in terms of ambition and scope, a feat that gets trickier to accomplish in a market where album sales aren't what they used to be.
MUST-LISTENS: "Lift Me Up," "Not Myself Tonight," "My Girls," "Birds of Prey," and "I Am."