April 29, 2011

Royal Friday

For those of you who didn't bother to get up at the buttcrack of dawn and endure endless commentary, here's the soundbite-lite, abridged version.

As a self-proclaimed Anglophile, I must say that I'm not disappointed to have missed the live feed. Sure, I was only a year old the last time something like this happened, but back then we didn't have streaming updates, DVRs, recap-filled websites, and instant photos.

Royal Friday = done.


April 22, 2011

My Gray Garden

April 21, 2011 is a date to be remembered. It was on this day I made a startling discovery in the bathroom mirror, a moment for the personal record books: my first gray hair.

So this is what happens after 30? Not only does Top 40 radio start to annoy the shit out of you, your hair follicles decide to give up and retire? I'm not even a month past my 31st birthday, and Father Time decides to throw this at me, a reminder that life proverbially goes on. Interesting.

A huge thanks to Kaila and her trusty pair of tweezers for plucking out this little bugger during our drive to the Santa Monica stairs for a little evening cardio session. I'm not panicking over this recent development. Instead, I'm embracing it. Bring on the silver fox jokes, the geezer comments, the no-spring-chicken jabs. My name is Hiko, and I am aging - wonderfully.

Off to Floyd's for my monthly buzzcut,


April 21, 2011

15 Years Ago I Learned...

The year was 1996. Clinton was in office, the Rachel was taking hair salons by storm, and I was enjoying my first summer job working at Playland amusement park while obsessing over the popcorny awesomeness that was Independence Day.

I also found myself playing Alanis Morissette's "You Learn" over and over again, an iconic tune that quickly found its place on the Soundtrack of My Adolescence. Anthemic, cleverly produced, and most importantly, radio-friendly (at the time), the song is simply an exercise in repetition, a list of inspired suggestions meant to teach us that life is one giant classroom and we never stop being students. The video, in which our Canadian heroine causes a car accident, shoots some hoops, gets into a girlfight, and receives a Boston cream pie facial - in different colored track jackets no less - was a fixture on both MTV and VH1 and begs for analysis no matter how many times you watch it.

Let us flashback, shall we?

April 18, 2011

What I'm Reading: April Edition

Rarely has a book spoken to me as much as Betsy Lerner's The Forest for the Trees. The 278-paged guide, "an editor's advice to writers," is unlike any other non-fiction/how-to/reference book I've seen. More than just a how-to-become-a-published-author tool for any writer who's ever slacked off, showed off, or struggled with their craft, it truly is a gripping insider's view on the whole publishing industry.

I happened to pick up this copy at an Everything-Must-Go sale at the Sherman Oaks Borders, one of the many that have been dropping like flies all over Los Angeles (don't even get me started on this depressing trend/development). There were several copies on display, and something about the paperback drew me to the shelf. Perhaps it was a subconscious need to find meaning in my current situation, an unspoken desire to understand why, at the ripe old age of 31, I continue to pursue a profession most people can't grasp as a complete, professional job. The glowing endorsement by Entertainment Weekly on the front cover didn't hurt either.

Shortly after my purchase, I dropped Jonathan Franzen's Freedom to start reading it. Yes, Ms. Lerner, I felt compelled to stop halfway through The Greatest Novel of 2010 to enjoy your "revised and updated" words of wisdom for schmoes like me. And "enjoy" is an understatement. Every page thus far (I'm at p.104) has managed to express and perfectly articulate the isolation, insecurity, pride, confusion, and desires writers experience. It's as if the woman has been spying on me ever since I was a 9-year-old loner who started sticking his nose in books and collected five-subject spiral notebooks full of short stories written in a penmanship only a parochial school education could instill. She goes beyond the "write what you know" bullshit; she actually picks apart that cliched piece of advice and somehow transforms it into an epiphany that is both eye-opening and matter-of-fact. And in between sharing personal experiences, she also reveals a few tasty morsels regarding some of the most famous names in literature (you mean Walt Whitman was actually an egotistical prick?) and offers commentary on the reward-obsessed world we live in, one that constantly stresses praise and likability.

There are countless passages I can scarily relate to. Some of which include the following:

Many people think that writers, successful or not, actually do spend their entire lives in pajamas. There is a disbelief in our culture that writing, or the creation of any art, is actually work. That thing about the pajamas is NOT true. I tend to impose a strict boxers-and-T-shirt uniform only on Mondays...and maybe Thursdays. And as for that disbelief, I'm starting to sense those sentiments from friends of mine. When being invited to meet up for drinks at a hotel, a friend texted: "C'mon, you can stay up late. It's not like you have work tomorrow morning! I should be the one worried!" Thanks, friend.

I have found that the impulse to write, to record one's private feelings, often appears at a very early age; with few exceptions most authors started writing in childhood. If as a child you gravitated towards books and kept diaries or made up stories, it speaks to an inherent aptitude for language...The child writer may be intensely verbal or intensely withdrawn. one thing is certain: his urge to write things down is predicated by the need to validate his experience. The child who makes sense of his world, escapes or remakes it through reading and writing, may never find another home as welcoming. See my five-subject spiral notebook reference above. I clearly was (and maybe still am) the textbook definition of a bookworm...or as I like to call it nowadays, a bibliophile.

You will invite as much comment and attention over the long term as the material warrants and the world deigns to bestow. A world...that is desperately vying for our entertainment dollars, which explains why some writers, especially young writers, in their desire to be heard try to make a big noise. And thus we have the reason why I continue to send out email blasts and Facebook updates linking entries to this small blog of mine.

In addition to physical symptons, people who write tend to develop a set of ritualized behaviors with regard to their work. These habits dictate when, where, and under what circumstance they feel able to produce. There are early birds and night owls. Some need a bright cafe to compose. Others must steal away to a secluded spot... My mornings presently consist of waking up, attempting to hit the gym (sometimes successfully), eating breakfast while catching The View, and then heading out to my Office of the Day. I can never work from home. Starbucks (or any other coffeeshop with free wi-fi and easy parking) is my preferred workspace. There's also the atrium-like bridge at the Westside Pavilion mall that features a comfy lounge area usually peppered with laptops and senior citizens in search of a breather from their retail-driven cardio.

Becoming a writer never won anybody any popularity contests. And most writers couldn't win one if they tried. Most have a lumpy writer's body and an uninspired wardrobe and talk too much...often steering conversation to their most recent article or book. Last time I checked, my attempts to burn any calories are just that, my attention to what I've been pulling out of the closet has sadly dwindled, and I am guilty of promoting my movie review in a local paper while catching up with a friend I hadn't seen in weeks (granted, he did ask what I as up to).

If you're a writer (or an artist of any kind actually), I highly recommend picking up a copy and getting sucked into Betsy Lerner's absorbing chapters on what makes us tick - what drives us - and why we ultimately long to be seen and heard.


April 15, 2011

A Golden Child

I am of the last generation of children who can remember what it was like to watch original network television programming on Saturday nights, particularly of the NBC sitcom variety. Before Saturday night became a junkyard of repeats, irrelevant specials, and low-rated reality fillers, it was once a comedic land of milk-and-honey. My earliest memories hark back to the late 80s when The Facts of Life aired first-run episodes, kicking off a two-hour block of sitcoms that came and went: 227, Amen, Gimme a Break, the short-lived Throb (anyone?), Empty Nest, Nurses, Mad About You... These were usually followed by a 10pm drama (Hunter, then Sisters, then The Pretender) which usually heralded my bedtime.

But the grandaddy (or grandmommy) of Saturday night sitcoms, for me and countless others, was - and will always be - The Golden Girls.

Upon re-watching the series from the beginning on DVD - a luxury only unemployment or a freelance career can bestow - I've learned a few things about these Girls. Some nuggets I've noticed after getting through the first five seasons include the following:

1. I've developed an unhealthy craving for dessert after every meal. This is undoubtedly due to the ladies' penchant for cheesecake whenever there's a social issue to address, an in-house conflict to resolve, or a love interest to talk about (basically every other episode). Can't sleep because there's something on your mind? Neither can Blanche. Or Dorothy. Or Rose. So why not go into the kitchen, open the fridge, and grab a knife and fork...Sophia won't be far behind.

2. Watching episode after episode is my own personal stress reliever. Perhaps it has something to do with the soothing, orchestral opening music. Perhaps it is the notion of living in a fabulous house with four liberal-minded women who have nothing but unconditional love for their friends, family, and each other. Perhaps it is the show's superb comedic (and timeless) writing that never ceases to make me giggle. Perhaps it also has something to do with the actual look and tone of the show itself; props to the production design team responsible for all of those pastel colors, floral prints, comfy accommodations, and just-like-Grandma's-house sensibilities.

3. Whenever the Girls sit around the kitchen table Bea Arthur is always seated in the middle, facing the camera. She is never seen in any other chair. While the other ladies switch up their seats in every episode, her Dorothy never fails to be found in that centrally located position. Was it a requirement demanded by the former Maude star? I can just imagine the clause being written into her contract: "Actor's profile must never be filmed during scenes involving the ingesting of any cheesecake; camera is to never catch said actor's side view in kitchen scenes."

4. Although Dorothy's cross-dressing brother, Phil, was frequently mentioned whenever she and Sophia waxed nostalgic about the good old days in Brooklyn, we never met him in person. Out of all the relatives who popped in and visited that Miami house, Phil was a no-show...until later in the series when we learned of his untimely death and finally met him - in a closed casket. Maybe this is what sparked the trend of Sitcom Characters We Never See On Camera (ex: Maris on Frasier, Stanley Walker on Will & Grace).

5. That ingrained exclamation point on the inside of the front door - Was it a goof? Or did the production designer purposely plant that little Easter egg for viewers to pick up on? What. Does. It. Mean? According to eeggs.com, Bea Arthur carved it in there for good luck.

6. If St. Olaf had a Starbucks, what would one order? A venti gaflookanoogen latte?

7. The ladies sure know how to stay active (socially, that is). There hasn't been a charity event, black-tie ball, gallery opening, or theater production in Miami these women haven't participated in. May this be a lesson for all senior citizens (and non-seniors) out there; retirement shouldn't be equated with a life of stagnation and crossing off the days until you're admitted into your very own Shady Pines. As the insightful Nicki Minaj says, "I believe that life is a prize, but to live doesn't mean you're alive."

Off to go find my own Moment for Life,


April 07, 2011

Spreading the Love (of Writing)

"Most girls usually spend their sweet 16 obsessing over the right dress, partying all night with friends, and if Mommy and Daddy are financially stable enough, enjoying a pimped-out new ride they can show off at school the next morning.

Not Saoirse Ronan. The star of the upcoming action-thriller Hanna spent her 16th birthday beating up Eric Bana, jumping out of windows in Berlin, Germany, and then squeezing in a Lady Gaga concert at the end of her hectic day..."

And so begins my first interview feature for Campus Circle. I recently sat down with the stars of the upcoming Hanna, Saorise Ronan and Eric Bana, for a chat. You can read the rest of it here.

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