March 28, 2011

Random Thought of the Week #22

Holy 1987 flashback. It's as if Jem moved to 90210. I can just picture a then-26-year-old Darren Star watching this and scratching his head, thinking: Why, I can turn this into a primetime soap, cast 30-year-olds to play teenagers, and make a crapload of money!

P.S. - I used to watch this cartoon every morning in the third grade.

March 11, 2011

Japan Quakes

Needless to say, I was riveted, glued to CNN well past midnight, watching that wave of water invade the northeastern coastline of Japan, specifically the city of Sendai - where my father's family has lived for nearly 30 years - completely in awe of what I was witnessing. For those who have expressed their concerns and sent their best thoughts and prayers, I thank you. As of now, all I know is that communication within Japan is basically non-existent (cell phones don't work). However, my dad has been able to call into the country and contact his brother to get updates. My uncle has yet to know where his son, Hitoshi (my cousin) is. Last they heard, he was driving a delivery truck to the small town of Ishinomaki, where my dad's 80something-year-old uncle resides in a beautiful home by a river (Memories of visiting that house in 1989, 1990, and 2001 have been replaying in my mind). Much of the tsunami was known to have stricken that area as well. Nothing has been heard from him.

I also haven't been able to tear myself away from several first-hand accounts that have been captured on video and posted to a special YouTube channel dedicated to footage of the devastation across the Pacific Ocean. Notice the calm composures:

Some good wine was lost:

And one mother and son quickly escape their home and console a neighbor outside in the street:

What's up Mother Nature?

Sending out nothing but positive vibes,


And I'm 12-Years Old All Over Again

Come June 10, I shall let J.J. Abrams remind me how magical and genuinely awesome movies can be:

March 05, 2011

Random Thought of the Week #21

In 26 days (not that I'm counting) I will be turning 31.

Yet I have this lurking feeling that my mind or general sensibility hasn't caught up to my physical body. In reality, I'm an adult who has recently entered his 30s, but in the bizarro universe that is Los Angeles, I'm somewhere between the ages of 21 and 25.

I blame popular culture. I blame it with its insistence on remaking/rebooting/reimagining films, television shows, and pop songs, forcing me to revisit my childhood and adolescence with every irresistibly rehashed product it spews out almost every month, and preventing me from actually growing up.

Exhibits A through K:

The CW's attempt to bring back the 90s with a new 90210 and Melrose Place. ABC's reboot of V and Jane Badler's reprise of her role as Diana. Scream 4. J.Lo's sample of "Lambada" in her new dance single "On the Floor." Jay-Z's sample of "Forever Young" in his single "Young Forever." That Total Recall remake. That NKOTBSB tour. TNT's new take on Dallas. The blasphemous cover of Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up" by Ashley Tisdale. The following book titles: Wuthering Bites, Little Vampire Women, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, and Jane Slayre. The impending Annie redo starring Willow Smith. Any given film adaptation of a Hasbro toy or Milton Bradley board game. Those rumors of a Buffy reboot. That news about a Blade Runner prequel...and sequel. Cher's alleged comeback in Burlesque. Betty White's comeback-that's-not-a-comeback. Nicki Minaj's oh-no-she-didn't sample of Annie Lennox's "No More I Love You's" in "Your Love." The new Nightmare on Elm Street. The new Friday the 13th. The new Prom Night. The get the picture.

Perhaps my rant is a clear enough sign of my actual age. After all, my list of Old Timer Traits continues to grow: Programming CNN as one of my Favorite Channels. Passing up Top 40 for NPR. Driving a hybrid vehicle. Not getting Taylor Swift - at all. Considering a 9am wake-up call "sleeping in." Preferring not to have any Friday night plans. Panicking about my savings account and credit score. Shuddering at the fact that The Goonies recently celebrated a 25th anniversary. Being sickened by the fact that anyone born before today's date in 1990 can purchase a pack of Budweiser...

How did I get here?

March 03, 2011

Press This Junket

There's a scene in the 1999 film Notting Hill in which Hugh Grant's character accepts an invitation to a posh hotel where he is to meet Anna Scott (Julia Roberts) at a press junket for her latest movie. When he arrives, however, he finds himself posing as a member of the press - a reporter from Horse & Hound - in order to gain access to the world's biggest celebrity. And shortly after he flirts with his potential love interest he must sit through one-on-one interviews with actors and patiently wait in hallways and lounges with journalists and reporters who sip on cups of coffee, scribble in little notebooks, and have deadlines to meet.

My second week as a renegade writer/blogger/taker-of-any-paying-gig found me in a similar situation. The editors of Bello Mag, who are also the founders of the stylish, called me up to see if I’d be available to interview Hollywood’s next Robert Pattinson, Alex Pettyfer (I Am Number Four), and his co-star, HSM sweetheart Vanessa Hudgens, from the upcoming Beauty-and-the-Beast-in-high-school flick Beastly. The press junket was to take place at the beautiful SLS Hotel on La Cienega, and I would be put on the list for a roundtable interview with the movie’s two stars and its director. Having just been there two days prior to interview the cast of Josh Radnor’s happythankyoumoreplease for HIH, I gladly accepted the invite for three reasons: 1. I was hoping to create some new opportunities and brush shoulders with other journalists with whom I could establish some connections. 2. It would offer more practice on the kind of e-reportage I’ve been doing for the past two years and 3. Press junket = free meal.

Getting to meet a couple of hot celebrities in the process...sure, it could be considered a bonus.

After attending several events like this, one can't help but pick up on a few things. First, the food ain’t so bad (let’s just get this out of the way now). The fancier the hotel, the tastier the menu. Case in point: The SLS, one of L.A.’s most prestigious (and new) hotels, has become somewhat of a hotspot due to its celeb clientele, gorgeous d├ęcor, and fantastic restaurant. And when a movie studio decides to use a hotel as its publicity headquarters for a certain period of time, the deal usually requires using the hotel’s caterer. The lunch provided during the Beastly junket was a smorgasbord of bite-sized paninis (the mini reuben was insanely good), a variety of salads, bottled soft drinks, and a mouth-watering dessert platter that could have been stolen from the set of a competition show on the Food Network. In other words, my stomach was overjoyed.

The variety of journalists who sit at a roundtable interview – usually six to eight people in total – range from veteran reporters with insightful queries to nerdy bloggers (ahem) and teenybopper writers who usually go for the safe and easy questions (“What’s your workout regimen like?” “What do you do to romance a girl?”). While chatting with Malin Ackerman (Watchmen, Couples Retreat) about her experiences on the set of happythankyoumoreplease and the themes of the film, I mentally consulted my What Would Oprah Ask journal and shot her this: “How do you define happiness?” Nobody saw that one coming, let me tell you.

By the way, if you’re wondering about those two other questions from above, Kate Mara (127 Hours, sister of Rooney) prefers an exercise called the Bar Method, and Alex Pettyfer buys his lady friends boxes of chocolates.

And then there's the free stuff the movie studio likes to occasionally shove into the arms of journalists, usually crappy souvenirs and products the film's marketing team has spent months working to produce. On this sunny Thursday in Beverly Hills I was treated to the soundtrack CD, the paperback novel (did I mention it's an adaptation?), a box of Jujyfruits (apparently one of the characters is a big junkie), and both a Wii and Nintendo DS game based on the film. If you have a birthday coming up and you love videogames, please know that I picked up a copy just for you.

For the Beastly junket I shared a room with an eclectic group of individuals. We were one of three roundtables on the sixth floor. Both actors and the director took turns entering each room to face a bombardment of questions from people who either didn’t give a shit about the movie being promoted or were faintly interested in getting soundbites from a pair of twentysomethings who earned paychecks exponentially larger than all of us combined. Since I had been put on this assignment two hours before the scheduled check-in I was the only one in the room who hadn’t seen the film. I didn’t attend any of the press screenings that were held the week before. What could I possibly ask? How could I play along? Could I bluff my way through the entire interview? I quickly racked my brain: it's a high school movie, so why not ask Alex and Vanessa about their own high school experiences and see how they might have applied them to the roles they played?

I had plenty of time to think of other questions because of the 45-minute delay we had to endure (I'm not at liberty to say which rumored-to-be prima donna was the cause of this). Some of my press constituents grew restless as the minutes ticked by. Once in a while a publicist would pop in to apologize for the late start. One middle-aged woman who had been doodling on her press packet got up to get a cup of coffee in the hospitality suite. The 41-year-old moderator who had let it slip that he could recite the lyrics to The Little Mermaid's "Part of Your World" (the complaints/talents of a new father) started spilling some humorous anecdotes which involved his impressive impersonation of Nicolas Cage. The two schmoes next to him swapped business cards and went over their hectic schedules for the rest of the week ("Dude, I've got to transcribe three interviews and go to a screening of that Topher Grace flick I so don't want to go to"). To my right, a young staffer from Tiger Beat quickly went through emails on her smartphone while the blogger sitting next to her did the same. And the Asian chick sitting across from me politely laughed at the moderator's stories while the woman at the far end stared into space and attempted to adjust her bra. Clearly she was of an age that did not suit the tank top she was wearing.

I'm sure Davids Mamet and Ives could find a juicy, character-fueled one-act play hidden within these walls.

Finally we were graced with the presence of Ms. Hudgens and Mr. Pettyfer. Digital recorders slid across the table. Notebooks were flipped open. The first question was asked. It all happened like clockwork.

Unlike some of my counterparts, I didn't have an office I needed to rush back to once it was over. The rest of the day was ripe for the taking, and I didn't want it to slip away. I had errands to run, entries to write, correspondences to keep up. I hope I get to go back to the SLS Hotel. I could sit in that lobby all day and curl up with a book by the firepit. And they have nice disposable hand towels in the bathrooms. (and so what if I pilfered a couple to use at home?)

Now, if you'll excuse me, I have to start prepping for the next junket with Clive Owen and Catherine Keener, this time at the Four Seasons...

I wonder what they'll serve for dessert.


March 01, 2011


Picture it. New York. 1994.

I walk onto the concrete schoolyard of New Rochelle Catholic Elementary, ready to brave another day of reading, writing, and religion class. But before my peers are shepherded into 8th grade homeroom, I huddle on a bench next to my friends Telisha and Shelly to talk about last night's jaw-dropping episode of Melrose Place. The cliffhanger that is on everyone's lips this chilly morning involves a back-from-the-dead Kimberly Shaw (a pre-Desperate Marcia Cross) silently spying on her ex-fiance, Michael Mancini, while he hooks up with the Vixen of All Vixens, Sydney Andrews. It is a television (and pop culture) moment for the history books - only to be topped by the following episode in which the resurrected doctor pulls off her wig to reveal a giant Frankenscar on her cranium.

Every Tuesday morning was reserved for Melrose recaps and speculations. My classmates and I could not help but regurgitate and obsess over the details of the previous night's episode. Had we been coworkers sharing a confined office space, we would be gathered around that proverbial watercooler, chatting up a storm. Other TV milestones from my childhood and/or adolescence that were heavily discussed immediately after their broadcast included: the accidental shooting of Scott in the second season of Beverly Hills, 90210 (a main cast member from a teen show getting killed off? My fellow sixth-graders were stunned), Bob waking up next to Suzanne Pleshette in the series finale of Newhart (even at the tender age of 10 I knew that was one brilliant closer), Ellen's big "coming out" show in 1997, Jackie getting beaten up by her boyfriend, Fisher, on Roseanne, that whole snake-rat speech delivered by Susan Hawk on the final episode of the very first Survivor...

But a funny thing happened during the past 15 years or so since those innocent days on the blacktop. Cable networks started to produce original content. DVDs invaded video stores. Lives became busier. And a little thing called TiVo made it possible to record our favorite shows without using those cumbersome VHS tapes. In short, everything was suddenly digital.

With this evolution came what I like to call The Decline of the Watercooler Chats. Less frequent now are those moments when friends or coworkers can gather together - face-to-face - the morning after a juicy night's worth of scripted drama. Why? Simply because everything is now saved on the DVR at home. One can go for weeks without watching several episodes of Mad Men or The Vampire Diaries because they've been accumulating on that little metal box perched below (or above) your HDTV. "I can just catch up on everything over the weekend," you say. And when your friend wants to talk about the shenanigans from that phenomenal installment of Top Chef, you can't: "I'm three episodes behind on my DVR. Don't spoil anything for me!"

Fortunately, I had yet to own my first TiVo when, on Alias, Francie was assassinated – by her doppelganger (!); I had watched that OMG-worthy episode with Kathleen the night it originally aired. There was no waiting period. We immediately turned to each other and screamed at this ingenious plot twist, one of the many that was typical for the ABC spy serial (this particular moment comes in at 6:40):

It seems like we didn't have this 'problem' when we learned to record shows on the ol' VCR back in the 80s and 90s. VHS cassettes typically allowed up to six hours of recorded footage on each tape, so there was more of an urgency to watch your show as soon as possible and reuse it for next week's programs. Now? DVRs can typically hold up to 80 hours of televised content. Every minute of every sitcom, every inane reality show, every morning chatfest can build up in those memory chips, and you can take comfort in knowing that you have it all stored in there for future viewing. But the question is: When will you?

With the exception of daily blogs dedicated to the dissection of popular shows, there seems to be less and less instant reaction and feedback discussed, especially in person, because less and less people are watching them "live," or during the actual given timeslot. As a result, less and less people can gather together to talk about their favorite television moments. Everyone seems to be on their own viewing schedule thanks to the blessed invention of the DVR. I even cancelled my TV Guide subscription years ago because of the accommodating features and benefits the DVR has offered; it knows when my shows are on - when to avoid any repeats - saving them all for me. That, and I never approved of TV Guide's revamped format. Give me my paperback-sized, black-and-white booklet any day.

There are also a few extremists out there (you know who you are), television viewers who will opt to miss an entire season of a hot new show all of their friends are glued to - either because they're too late jumping on the bandwagon and don't have the time to catch up to present storylines, or they tell themselves that they can always add the DVDs to their Netflix queue when the season is finally released and pull a marathon over a weekend. I am currently doing this with the third season of Dexter and went through something similar three years ago when I watched the free pilot of Damages on iTunes and immediately purchased the rest of the stellar first season.

Perhaps we should all pay our respects to the watercooler as we charge forward into this new era. Not only does it have to face the competition of bottled water and the rising trend of reusable aluminum canteens, this modern-day campfire of sorts has to face neglect as less people hover around it to chat about fictitious characters and the colorful lives they lead.

Let us all raise our small paper cups...


Theme Song of the Month: March

It's been considered the male version of (or response to) Robyn's "Dancing On My Own" from 2010. I consider it the track I'll be playing on repeat for the next 30 days. It's Erik Hassle's "Are You Leaving." Enjoy:

Catfights, Cleavage and Carrie-Anne Moss: 'Models Inc.' Turns 25

In the early 90s, as anyone familiar with the oeuvre of uber-producer Aaron Spelling knows, the successful  Beverly Hills, 90210 begat ...