Monday, September 10, 2007


YouTube has failed me. I desperately wanted to link to the clip of Liza singing "God Bless America" before the men's final of the U.S. Open, but sadly there is none to be found. You'll just have to trust me, it's hilarious. Not only did her extreme theatrics turn the patriotic anthem into musical comedy, it also left me wondering why anyone is singing "God Bless America" before a championship match between the three-time defending champion from Switzerland and an upstart Serb challenger.


Curses, YouTube! Foiled again! Just in case any of you hadn't seen the clip of Britney opening the MTV Video Music Awards, my desire was to link to it here. But alas, Viacom filed a copyright claim and had the instantly infamous footage removed from the web that is world wide. There's a rehearsal video floating around, but it's just not the same. During the show, I used the TiVo to rewind and run it in slow motion, pausing on one particular shot where Britney appears to have six chins.

Between Liza and Britney, I can't call it. Let's just say those damaged divas finished in a dead heat for best belly laugh of the weekend.

Friday, September 07, 2007


1) Chocolate Brown
2) Sky Blue
3) Burnt Orange
4) Black
5) Forest Green
6) Pale Yellow
7) White
8) Aubergine
9) Beige
10) Pink


1) Big Love
2) Flight of the Conchords
3) Newport Harbor
4) The Hills
5) Planet Earth
6) Traveler
7) The Bronx is Burning
8) The Starter Wife
9) Man vs. Wild
10) Entourage

Honorable Mention: Baldwin Hills
(Full Disclosure: I worked on it.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007


It is the eve of the individual time trial that will determine the winner of the 2007 Tour de France. I wish I could say that I don’t care who wins, but that would be a lie. Despite the best efforts of the spoiled sport of cycling to alienate me as a viewer and a fan, I will still watch the time trial tomorrow and the ceremonial ride into Paris on Sunday. But I will do so under extreme protest.

I am a rabid sports fan. With the exceptions of NASCAR and the WNBA, I closely follow every major sport. For the past seven years or so, every July, I have watched as much of the Tour de France as is humanly possible. TiVo now allows me to ingest each stage as I see fit. Essentially, I scroll through to the moments of truth in each race. If it’s a day for the sprinters, I’ll find the point when the peloton is about to catch the breakaway and watch until the speedsters cross the line. If it’s a mountain stage, I’ll search the telecast for the decisive climb when the leaders separate themselves from the pack and challenge each other until the best of the best emerge. I thoroughly enjoy the grueling nature of Le Tour, a true test of endurance and will, that sees a new hero come to fore on a daily basis. I love the beauty shots of the French countryside, the majestic Alps, and the unforgiving Pyrenees. Phil Ligget and Paul Sherwen bring a wealth of knowledge and contagious enthusiasm to the race with their astute commentary. There’s so much to love about the Tour de France, and even without the obvious rooting interest of a dominating Lance Armstrong, I’m willing to give myself over to it. But my devotion and pleasure were undermined this week.

I suppose the first blow smacked me across the jaw at the end of last year’s Tour. I watched as another American rider, Floyd Landis, put in a monumental effort on a heroic ride that put him in position to win the race just one day after cracking on a severe climb, all but ending his dreams of winning the overall race. It was truly amazing. Phil, Paul, Bob Roll, and Al Trautwig gushed over the performance, calling it one of the greatest single day rides they had ever seen in cycling history. I bought into it. Landis was a hero. And then, of course, it was all tainted by a positive drug test that revealed highly unusual amounts of testosterone in his body. But the drug test results didn’t come out until the tour was over and Landis crowned the champion on the podium in Paris, with the Arc d’Triomphe as a backdrop. Although Landis denied doping, it was hard to believe him. Along with every other fan of cycling, I felt betrayed that his heroic day was nothing more than a drug-fueled farce. But because it was after the fact, I didn’t have to watch the Tour continue day after day with this cloud hanging over its head.

And then the 2007 race began. With the case still pending, Landis was not welcomed back. Ivan Basso, one of the exciting up-and-comers of the sport who seemed to be the only one capable of hanging with Armstrong in the mountains, didn’t make the trip because he was suspended for two years for… you guessed it, doping. Jan Ullrich, for many years Armstrong’s chief rival, was also absent on drug suspicion. So the race started for the first time in I don’t know how long without a rider who had previously worn the coveted yellow jersey into Paris. Someone new would win the Tour. It seemed like everyone was pegging Alexandre Vinokourov, an aggressive rider Kazakhstan, to win the whole thing. Vino, as he is nicknamed, is an unpredictable cyclist who seems to fly in the face of conventional wisdom whenever possible. He attacks when others wouldn’t dare, and that scares the crap out of the peloton. However, early on in the race, on a flat stage with no apparent danger, Vino fell hard. The cameras didn’t catch the actual crash, but he and a teammate both went down and ended up on the side of the road. Vinokourov ripped the Lycra off his cycling shorts and exposed a nasty gash on the back of his thigh. In addition, he was bleeding profusely from both of his knees. The entire team came to his aid and paced him back into the race, limiting Vino’s loses on the day to just a couple of minutes. In heroic fashion, Vinokourov pressed on, riding in pain the next few days with huge bandages on his knees. When they hit the mountains, it was apparent that Vino just wasn’t the same, and he slid back even further in the General Classification, which measures each rider’s cumulative time in the three-week race. It became obvious to all that the favorite wasn’t going to win, which in turn left the field wide open.

Then Vino resurrected himself from the dead. In an individual time trial (simply the rider against the clock), the Kazakh blew the field away by a remarkable two minutes. Once again, Phil and Paul praised the rider they’ve known since his teenage years for his historic performance and welcomed him back into the conversation of who would win the Tour. But, the next day in the mountains, Vino cracked. Unable to keep pace with the leaders in the steep Pyrenees, Vinokourov even waved goodbye to the television camera, symbolically admitting his chances to win were gone. However, he would not go quietly. Climbing up the mountain the next day, Vino got into a breakaway with some serious riders that made it extremely difficult for the peloton to track down. Eventually, Vino left the exclusive pack in the dust and rode alone to glory on a mountaintop finish, aggressively pumping his fist in the air as he crossed the line. He was a hero yet again.

But it was all bullshit. The next day was a rest day for the Tour, and as riders, managers, and tour officials addressed the media, word spread that Vinokourov had failed his drug test following the individual time trial three days prior. The test indicated that Vino had received a blood transfusion before his miraculous ride. The cycling world, and I, were devastated. Vino was supposed to be one of the good guys, a highly likable athlete who rode on guts and courage in addition to his abundant natural talent. Yet he turned out to be just another cheating cyclist on an ever-growing list.

That night, I watched the rest day coverage on Versus, a recap of the previous week of racing. The show was pre-recorded before the news broke, so the dominant story of the rest day was how Alexandre Vinokourov somehow managed to overcome his injuries to ride back to the top of his sport. I couldn’t help but feel for Phil and Paul, who day after day announce the action with pure love and admiration for the brave athletes. Along with everyone else, they were made to look like fools in hindsight. Besides the commentators, who really are the face of the sport, my heart sank when I thought about the riders on Vino’s team Astana who were removed from the Tour as well. One of them, Andreas Kloden, sat in fifth place overall going into the final stages. Despite all appearances to the casual observer, cycling is a team sport. Those who do the grunt work but rarely taste the glory are called domestiques. They bury themselves for their leaders, unselfishly sacrificing their bodies for the greater good of the team. What about those guys? They dragged themselves all over France and up two mountain ranges, only to see their team leader get caught for doping and eliminate them all from the race.

When the dust settled, the Tour rode on. Following the rest day, the riders faced one more brutal day of climbing in the Pyrenees. This would be the day that separated the contenders from the pretenders. Michael Rasmussen, a Danish rider for Team Rabobank, and the wearer of the yellow jersey as the race leader for over a week, found himself under attack from two riders from Team Discovery Channel. 24-year-old Alberto Contador, an unbelievable climber riding in his first Tour de France, and American Levi Leipheimer were the only ones able to stay with Rasmussen on the final climb. Contador was second overall in the General Classification (GC) and Leipheimer fourth. This was it, the moment of truth in this year’s race. Contador and Leipheimer worked together to try and crack Rasmussen but couldn’t. Finally, Rasmussen attacked back and flew free, getting to the top of the mountain first and winning the stage. For all intents and purposes, the Dane had just won the Tour de France. Then, later on that night, news broke that Team Rabobank was removing Rasmussen from the race for lying about his whereabouts in the months leading up to the Tour and missing two random drug tests.

During that climactic climb, I must admit I was watching with a skeptical eyes. For the first time, I actually doubted the veracity of what I was witnessing in the race. How could Rasmussen be that good? How could he go the entire three weeks without cracking once? After all, this guy may be good but he’s no Lance Armstrong. I secretly wished Rasmussen would fail the drug test and Contador would be the new leader of the race. Never in a million years did I imagine his own team would kick him out without proof that he was doping. Rasmussen didn’t even fail a drug test! Of course, that doesn’t mean he wasn’t doping. In all likelihood, he was. But Team Rabobank didn’t want to win that way. In spite of themselves, they made Rasmussen the sacrificial lamb in their desire to show commitment to cleaning up the sport of cycling. And in the process, they killed whatever joy remained in watching this year’s Tour. Contador took over the yellow jersey, but it felt hollow. We didn’t get to see him take it. It just fell to his shoulders.

Yesterday and today were flat stages that saw the peloton unwilling to chase down the breakaways. In comparison, they were boring racing days. But even more than that, I had a bitter taste in my mouth as I fast forwarded through most of the coverage. The Tour has soured for me and for anyone who commits themselves to watching three weeks of a bike race in the middle of the summer. Yet, taking all that into account, there was still an intriguing storyline to the day’s race and a new hero emerged. Sandy Casar, a veteran French rider, was one of the guys in a small group who broke away from the peloton early and stretched their lead to the point where the main pack decided not to chase them down. Along the way, a dog suddenly dashed into the road ahead of Casar. The Frenchman had no time to brake and slammed into the dog, sending both of the them crashing to the surface of the road. The scared dog ran away while a bloody Casar mounted his bike again and pressed on. He rejoined the breakaway group and out-sprinted them to the finish line to win his first ever stage in the Tour de France.

It’s a crying shame that drugs have ruined the sport. Cycling, and the Tour de France in particular, produces high drama on its own. Steroids and performance-enhancing drugs have infiltrated every major sport and their days of reckoning are upon us. One can only wince at the thought of Barry Bonds breaking Hank Aaron’s home run record when everyone knows he had to juice to do it. It’s hard to watch. Just like the doped-up Tour de France. I truly hope they find a way clean up the sport and return it to its natural glory. But I have my doubts. My cynicism now runs so deep I find myself wishing the International Cycling Federation would allow them all to enhance their performance by whatever means they choose and let them go at it. At least then it would be a level playing field.

Thursday, June 14, 2007


Rafael Nadal is the undisputed King of Clay. Last week, he turned 21 years old and won his third consecutive French Open title. Nadal defeated #1 Roger Federer in 4 sets to claim the crown and prevent Federer from achieving the one thing he hasn't done in tennis... win the French. Federer was looking to complete his career Grand Slam (all four major titles at some point in a career), and set up himself up to be the first man to win the calendar Grand Slam (the four major titles in a calendar year) since Rod Laver accomplished the feat in 1969. In addition, Federer has entered the discussion of Greatest Player of All-Time. But in order to truly be considered, many think he needs to win the French Open. So history was on the line last Sunday at Roland Garros, and Nadal wrote his own. After winning his 3rd French Open at the ripe age of 21, talk now turns to Bjorn Borg's record of 6 French Open titles. If Nadal stays healthy, he'll eventually break Borg's record and go down as the greatest clay court player in the history of the game.

The Nadal-Federer rivalry is exactly what men's tennis needed. Roger Federer has been the #1 player in the world for a record 177 weeks. Rafael Nadal has been the #2 player in the world for 99 weeks. Nadal has now set the record for most weeks at #2 without being #1. No one on the men's tour seems to be able to beat Federer with any consistency (or at all) except for Nadal. Watching Sunday's final, I couldn't help but notice Roger's body language. He is always so supremely confident and composed on the tennis court, but you could clearly see the frustration at being inferior to Nadal on the red clay in Paris. Nadal actually got inside Federer's head. On clay, Nadal puts so much spin on the ball, plays incredible defense, and has the patience to wait until the right moment in a point to go for the winner. He's unstoppable on the surface. In fact, he has literally yet to be stopped at the French Open, holding a 21-0 career record there and the 3 titles. His intensity on every point intimidates and wears down everyone he plays, including Federer. And he's only 21. What amazes me is the maturity and mental strength at such a young age. You expect a 21-year-old athlete to be in great shape (and Nadal is certainly in phenomenal physical condition), but you don't expect him to have developed the strongest "inner game" by this point. Yet, on clay, he has done exactly that.

This rare combination of discipline, patience, intensity, and determination gives me great admiration for the young man. Add to that his likability in the press, and the fact that he still lives with his family on the island of Mallorca and is still coached by his uncle Tony, and you have the complete picture of why Rafael Nadal is my favorite player on tour since the retirement or Andre Agassi. And the guy has only been legally able to drink for a week.

Viva Nadal!

Friday, June 01, 2007


Today, June 1st, is the 13th anniversary of the day I moved to Los Angeles. And it happens to be a Friday. So, in a roundabout way it's Friday the 13th for me. I would say that this being my 13th year in SoCal could potentially be a bad omen, but with my string of bad luck in the realm of shitty sitcoms (shitcoms, if you will), I am of the belief that the 13th year will in fact be a lucky one. I better start buying lottery tickets. Or writing more screenplays. Same thing, really...

Thursday, May 31, 2007


On the way to a Memorial Day BBQ, I started working on a list in my head. Having recently watched "One on One" with Robby Benson, I had movie titles with numbers on the brain. There was no traffic on the 101, so I made it to my friend's house fairly quickly. I got up to 13 on my own, then opened up the topic to the group after I settled in. The only rule was that we had to use our collective brain rather than simply look up answers on the internet when we got stuck. Old school, yo.

One on One
Two for the Road
Three Amigos
Fantastic Four
Five Easy Pieces
Six Degrees of Separation
The Magnificent Seven
Eight Men Out
8 1/2
Nine to Five
9 1/2 Weeks
The Ten Commandments
Ocean's Eleven
Twelve Monkeys or Twelve Angry Men
Thirteen or Thirteen Days or Friday the 13th
Saturday the 14th
15 Minutes
Sixteen Candles
Stalag 17
18 Again!
K-19: The Widowmaker
20 Dates
21 Grams
The Number 23
24 Hour Party People
25th Hour

And that's where we hit the wall. I'm not even sure there's a mainstream movie with the number 26 in it. I've been tempted to cheat using IMDb or Google, but have thus far resisted. We came up with all kinds of movies later on down the line, such as:

28 Days Later...
29 Palms
13 Going on 30
Naked Gun 33 1/3
50 First Dates
101 Dalmatians
200 Cigarettes
The 400 Blows
Fahrenheit 451
A Thousand Acres
2001: A Space Odyssey
10,000 B.C.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

But if the list bogs down at 26 and 27, it's difficult for me to feel a sense of completion. Maybe I should just be satisfied that we reached 25. After all, everything goes downhill after 25 anyway...

Thursday, May 17, 2007


"Entourage" drives me crazy. For starters, never in my life did I imagine I would hate a Jane's Addiction song. But the opening credits for the show have made me despise "Superhero." The tone set by that credit sequence reminds me what I don't like about "Entourage", namely it's superficiality. In general, the show is as paper thin as the garlic Fat Clemenza used to slice with a razor blade. Not that I need tremendous depth from a story about a movie star and his posse, but something to care about would be nice. While the superficial nature of the program is indeed representative of Hollywood life, it doesn't necessarily make for great television.

My biggest issue with the show is character development, or lack thereof. Besides Ari, I can't think of a single significant thing that has happened to any of the main characters. They go up a little bit, they go down a little bit, the movie is on, the movie is off, etc., etc. I don't require the standard sitcom axiom of seeing characters learn lessons and show growth every episode. But here we are in Season 3, and it seems like everyone except Ari is in practically the same place they were in the pilot. Finally, in this past Sunday's episode, we had something to care about. Because the characters actually cared about something. Vince showed a passion for the Pablo Escobar project that you'd expect from a theoretically high-minded superstar in the making. We often see him sticking to his principles about what movies he wants to make or doesn't want to make, but we rarely see him play the power game that underlies so much of the entertainment industry. As someone in the business of show, that's the kind of stuff I want to see. For example, in an episode last season, when Ari is about to defect from his agency to start his own and has to sit down with the heads of the rival agencies, it felt like we were getting a peek behind the curtain. And it made for somewhat compelling drama, which is really the most we can expect from "Entourage."

Speaking of drama, if this past episode taught us anything, it's that Johnny Drama should be the center of the show. Ari may be the funniest character, but Drama is the most vulnerable. He's the only one who consistently shows emotion, and consequently, the one we care about the most. He's the underdog in a town where the favorite wins nine times out of ten. But that one upset win is something truly worth rooting for. The last shot of "The Resurrection" illustrates my point perfectly. Drama finds out his new TV show is a hit, drops to his knees, looks out over the Grand Canyon, raises his arms, and yells, "Victory!" I actually found myself with a rush of good feelings for the character. It might have been the most visceral moment in the run of the show. But did it have to take three seasons to get there?

My frustration with "Entourage" is that it could be so much more. The setup is there, but it rarely delivers anything surprising. And I've already lowered my expectations to accommodate the show's limitations. More often than not, I get to the end of an episode and say out loud, "That's it?" It goes by like a California breeze, but it doesn't have enough gust to blow out the smog.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Dear Ricky Williams,

What it do? In light of your latest positive drug test, I felt compelled to drop you a line. I think it's become pretty clear by now that you're never going to be the dominant running back you once were for my beloved Miami Dolphins. And you know what... that's okay. You had your day in the sun, and you were a beast. I'm sorry those prime years didn't lead to a Super Bowl, but you led the league in rushing and you showed the world your special talent. Now it's time to give up. Why come back to be half the player you once were? What's the point? As far as priorities go, you've made it clear that smokin' the ganja is higher on the list than carrying the football as the workhorse back for an NFL team. I don't blame you. You and I have both seen what happens to running backs with long careers... they can't walk after they retire! So I say ditch the pigskin and concentrate on the herb.

If your desire to get back into the league is about money, you've got to let it go. Get a job, dude. There are plenty of jobs out there that don't test for the kush. You've got a college education and some skills, it shouldn't be that hard to find work. A regular job will allow you to get casual when the mood strikes and give you a little walking around money. I mean, I sincerely hope you have some cash left from your NFL days. If not, you could be screwed. Because the kind is not cheap, and I know you don't want to be smoking the MexiBud with seeds and stems and whatnot. If you've spent every last dollar, Tyson-style, then by all means, apply for reinstatement with the league in September. Just don't plan on being a Dolphin.

By the way, when I was going out with this girl a few years ago, her family got me one of your Dolphin jerseys for Christmas. It was the greatest Christmas present this Jew has ever gotten. So I'll always have my little piece of your glorious days in a Dolphin uniform. Don't ruin that memory by returning to the league as a mediocre backup just to make some green to purchase some green. Don't do it, man.

Burn one down for me.

Easy skankin',


Thursday, May 03, 2007


Yesterday morning, my next door neighbor asked me if I would walk his dog a couple of times a day for the rest of the week. He offered to pay me for my trouble and I agreed. Around four in the afternoon, I paid a visit to Winston the Chihuahua. As soon as I walked into the apartment, he stood up on the bed and stared at me. Within seconds, he was shivering with fear at the sight of a strange mustachioed man in Nike running gear. I must tell you that my next door neighbor is actually dogsitting Winston, a rescue, for a few weeks as a favor to his friend. So I was given the task of dogsitting for the dogsitter. After talking to Winston in calming tones and gently approaching him to pet his head, he finally gave in and let me put the leash on him for a walk. Though he was still shivering as I attached the leash to his collar.

I took Winston for a non-eventful walk up and down the block, making sure he urinated and picking up his feces in a plastic bag. As we stepped back into my neighbor's apartment, I bent down to take the leash off as I closed the front door behind me. In a split second, Winston turned and bolted for the crack in the door. I caught him with my leg, smooshing him against the door jamb... but he managed to wriggle away and take off down the stairs leading to the street. I yelled for him to stop, then chased him down to street level. Once he hit the sidewalk, he kicked it into fifth gear and made a run for the border. I ran after him, yelling his name repeatedly, but he had no intention of stopping. On tired legs from having just completed a six-mile run hours before, I sprinted for as long as I could, but was no match for his four little legs and low center of gravity. A guy on a motorcycle saw what was going on and tried to cut him off, but Winston craftily eluded him as well. Halfway down the block, I was losing a visual on Winston, until eventually he was completely out of sight. My heart sank. Exhausted and panting, I slowed down to a speed-walk in the general direction I last saw him. I asked everyone I encountered along the way if they had seen a little black and brown Chihuahua. If I had time to hire a sketch artist, he would've drawn something like this:

No one had seen the dog. I started to panic as I neared Sunset Boulevard, thinking it was possible he hit the busy intersection and god knows what happened. I crossed Sunset and walked up a block or two, but soon realized I was looking for a miniscule Chihuahua in a giant city. How could this have happened? Am I the worst dogsitter in the world? What kind of horrible person am I to have lost someone else's dog? Riddled with guilt and sweating profusely, I quickly jogged back to the apartment to see if the dog had returned. No such luck. I grabbed my cell phone and placed a call to my next door neighbor. I left a message that I'm absolutely sure freaked him out when he heard it because of the utter panic in my voice. Disaster for me. Disaster for him. I roamed the neighborhood for an hour or so, keeping my eyes peeled for Winston, calling his name, asking everyone I passed if they saw him. Nothing. As if he had vanished. It felt like death.

Faced with that kind of loss, I turned to the only source I could... God. I asked for help in guiding me back to that shivering little shit. I tried to have faith that it would happen. I talked to my next door neighbor on the phone, and although he was spooked, he seemed to remain relatively calm for me. Nearly defeated, I headed back to the apartment one more time to see if Winston had come home. On the way back, I experienced one of the greatest moments of relief in my life. I caught a glimpse of Winston playing in a neighbor's backyard with two other dogs. "Winston!" A guy popped around the corner and said he had seen me walking by a couple of times but didn't realize I was looking for the dog. I thanked him profusely as he handed me the tiny terror. Just as the guy placed Winston in my arms, my cell phone rang. It was my next door neighbor. I answered the call and immediately said, "I got him." Total relief on both ends of the phone. We laughed about it for a minute and my neighbor told me not to worry about a thing. "It's over", I said. "After all that, I'm holding him in my arms." I carried Winston back into my neighbor's apartment, shut the door tightly behind me, scolded the disobedient devil dog until he started shivering again, then went home. I immediately hopped into the shower and scrubbed off the guilt, tension, worry, and stress. I was off the hook, thank God.

I sincerely doubt I'll ever eat Taco Bell again.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007


A good friend from Seattle came to town on a weekend pass and stayed with me for a few days. Although I was hosting a guest at my home, I felt like I was on vacation too. Being that I recently spent a week in the Bahamas and Fort Lauderdale, then stole away to Palm Desert the weekend after I got back, I probably didn't deserve or need another vacation. Yet, I treated myself to one.

My good friend from Seattle is actually one of my ex-girlfriend's best friends from college. Luckily, my ex-girlfriend and I are much better as friends than we were as a couple, because I spent the majority of the weekend with her, her phenomenal husband, her incredibly cute baby, her ridiculously amazing dogs (one of which I sired during our relationship), and our common friend from Seattle.

It was all great fun and hilarious, I assure you, but I will generously spare you the intimate details of the general hanging out, cooing at and dancing with the baby, watching Survivor: Fiji, playing a homemade version of Celebrity: The Game, and squaring off in a no-holds-barred game of Texas Hold 'Em. I'm just going to hit the highlights.

Friday afternoon, we went on a little adventure to Universal CityWalk to take in 300 on the IMAX. On our way into the parking lot, we encountered perhaps the greatest parking attendant in the history of theme park parking. It wasn't that he was the friendliest by any stretch, just extremely knowledgeable and efficient. He gently persuaded us to buy preferred parking (first class) for $20 instead of the general parking (coach) for $10, by pointing out the logic in getting a $10 rebate from the movie theater and a book of coupons. It would be trite and tedious to riff on the utter absurdity of CityWalk itself, so suffice it say, we eventually made our way into the IMAX and took in the grandeur of 300. Blessed with a lack of connoisseur geekiness for all things associated with comics and graphic novels, I managed to sufficiently lower my expectations as I sat down to watch the flick. And I was rewarded for it. The movie was superficial fun, exciting at times and surprisingly sexy. You can't take it all too seriously, I mean, it doesn't even take itself that seriously. No one is proclaiming this to be a film of substance. But it won me over by not trying to be. It's high style without slipping into the realm of camp. Sure, I can pick the movie apart bit by bit, limb by limb, but the three of us who saw it that day didn't feel the need to do it then nor do I feel the need to do it now. If you do decide to see it, and I recommend you do, look for my friend friend Peter Mensah early on the film as the emissary of Xerxes, and make absolutely sure you watch it on an IMAX screen. I doubt I would've enjoyed 300 sets of six-pack abs half as much in one of those regular-sized theaters.

Saturday afternoon, my Seattle friend and I booked massages at Burke Williams. We met my ex and her brood for a scrumptious brunch at the Black Cow Cafe in Montrose, a true LA treasure, then headed into West Hollywood for some man pampering. We got there just in time and they ushered us into the spa immediately to change. The only problem was, we both desperately needed to empty our bowels before the rubdowns. Apparently, my friend took care of things rather quickly and went right into the private room to begin his session. I, on the other hand, had a little trouble performing under pressure. As I sat in the private bathroom, I heard my named being called in the spa. I had two options: Answer back and risk the embarrassment of everyone in the spa knowing my bidness, or keep quiet and ride it out, knowing they'll still come get me and take me to the room when I'm finally done. I chose to hush up. And sure enough the spa attendant greeted me as soon as I stepped out and took me in for my massage. But because I started a little late, my lady massage therapist kept asking if I wanted to cut it to a half hour session or go the full hour. She said she was scared of getting in trouble if I complained that I didn't get the full hour. I told her to keep going. What I learned later from a massage therapist friend of mine was that she was trying to get more money out of me. Thus, my naivety paid off and I got a good forty-five minutes of pure relaxation massage out of it. Little did the woman know I was paying with a gift certificate I got two years ago while working on Will & Grace. As if I could actually afford to pay for a massage out of pocket...

Monday, April 23, 2007


I believe Alec Baldwin is a comedic genius. Of course he's funny on "30 Rock", he's supposed to be funny. That show desperately needs him to be funny. Otherwise, it might collapse under the weight of the one-note antics of Tracy Morgan. But I find Alec Baldwin to be especially funny when playing drama. Besides Emperor Palpatine, no one in the known universe relishes his own capacity for evil like Alec Baldwin. Two prime examples will undoubtedly illustrate my point:


I had the honor and distinct pleasure to work with Baldwin (henceforth in this post, Baldwin will refer to Alec only, not his lesser kin) on a couple episodes of "Will & Grace". As always, he was dead on with his deadpan, never begging for a laugh, and, perhaps to the surprise of many, he was also a perfect gentleman. When I was a lowly peon toiling in the mailroom of Castle Rock Entertainment, Baldwin had an overall deal and an office at the Beverly Hills headquarters. Again, he was never less than cordial and even gave each of the mailroom guys a bottle of nice wine and a personally-signed card for Christmas. Thus, I felt the old adage of "never meet your heroes" didn't apply to Baldwin. After hearing the now-infamous phone message to his daughter, my first instinct was to thank my lucky stars that I'm not his kid. Then I listened to the message again, and while I don't condone that brand of parenting, I have to admit it made me laugh a little bit. I knew I shouldn't, but he's just that damn funny.

While we're on the subject, I suppose I should remind the seven of you reading this to watch an all-new episode of "Heroes" this evening. I like the show, but can't say I love it. It sits on my TiVo all week long, starts to feel like a chore, then I watch it and enjoy it. Don't really know why I'm not all in on that show.

And I should take this opportunity to plug perhaps the greatest hero I've ever had. Though they call them hoagies, La Spada's in Ft. Lauderdale has mastered the art of the submarine sandwich. For starters, the bread is perfect. Then they layer on the meat which is sliced fresh right in front of you, pile on as many fixins as you desire, then add another layer of meat! Crazy, right? But they don't stop there... They take the knife and perform a delicate procedure called a "tuck under", whereby the top layer of meat is tucked under the bottom layer to create a unified sandwich. You can't believe how good the whole thing goes down. Here's the kicker: Since the airlines decided to cut costs by not feeding us real food on the plane, I try to pack a delicious meal for myself and call it a mile high feast. When I asked the fine folks at La Spada's if there was any way they could keep the sandwich from getting soggy while I flew cross-country, they knew just what I needed... The Fisherman's Drop. Before laying down the first layer of meat, they place a piece of wax paper on top of the bread and build the hero from there. When it comes time to eat, say halfway through my Delta Song flight when I'm watching the E! True Hollywood Story of The Hilton Sisters for the umpteenth time, I politely request a Canada Dry Ginger Ale from the stewardess, take out my sub, carefully remove the wax paper, and -- Voila! The Fisherman's Drop!

In an attempt to find some kind of cohesion to all this, I turn to Bowie:

I wish you could swim
Like the dolphins
Like the dolphins can swim
Though nothing
Though nothing will keep us together
We can beat them
Forever and ever
Oh we can be heroes
Just for one day

I will be king
And you
You will be queen
Though nothing
Will drive them away
We can heroes
Just for one day
We can be us
Just for one day

I remember I remember
By the wall by the wall
The guns
Shot about our heads all about our heads
And we kissed
As though
Nothing could fall nothing could fall
And the shame
Was on the other side
Oh we can beat them
Forever and ever
We can be heroes
Just for one day

We can be heroes
We can be heroes
We can be heroes
Just for one day

All right, maybe that didn't tie everything together the way I thought it would, but that is one incredible song...

Friday, April 20, 2007


It's 4:20 on 4/20... I'm just sayin'...


I watch a lot of TV. I mean, a lot. Because I work in television, I can justify it as career-related viewing, but I must admit I'm a slave to the vidiot box and a wee bit TiVo-obsessed. Not only do I consume as much as I possibly can in prime time, but there are three shows I record and watch on a daily basis without fail -- Boy Meets Grill, Pardon the Interruption, and The Daily Show. In all my hours logged on the couch with magical TiVo remote in hand, I believe I have earned the right to declare Friday Night Lights the best show on television this season.

For starters, the show features perhaps my favorite opening credit sequence in television history.

To paraphrase an old Sam Cooke song, I don't know much about chemistry. But I do know that combining the right elements and finding the formula for making a television show or movie pop off the screen is incredibly daunting and elusive work. Of course, it all starts with the writing. (Predictable, coming from a writer.) The DNA for a successful project is naturally encoded in the script. Best case scenario, the teleplay or screenplay is a work of art in itself. But those honors are reserved for an elite few. More often than not, the words aren't perfect, the plot doesn't fully make sense, and the characters aren't quite three-dimensional yet. But if it's in the genes, it's in the genes. Script doctors, directors, and actors exist to flesh those things out anyway, right? (Such a writery writer thing to say.) Every once in a while, it all comes together. The script is gold, the actors are perfectly cast and bring the characters to life in a way previously unimaginable to the writer, and the executive producer or director creates an environment conducive to collaboration while still demonstrating a singular vision in guiding the process. It happens. Just not very often. In recent television history, it definitely happened with The Sopranos and Six Feet Under. It happened with Seinfeld and The West Wing. Imagine Entertainment pulled if off a few years ago with Arrested Development. And now they have done it again with Friday Night Lights.

As Coach Eric Taylor and his wife Tami, respectively, Kyle Chandler and Connie Britton deliver nuanced and soulful performances on a variety of levels. They serve as the backbone of an outstanding ensemble cast (including the smoking-hot Minka Kelly) that is lucky enough to work with phenomenal scripts and producers who obviously know their way around video village. It all works. The alchemy is simply perfect.

Unfortunately, besides the converted few who I'm preaching to, people didn't watch. Despite heaps of critical praise, the show struggled in the Nielsen ratings all season long and never really showed much audience growth as it progressed. NBC is not a strong enough network right now to adequately promote the quality shows they do have on the air because they don't have the blockbuster hits to lean on for support. Maybe the show is too smart for the average bear. Maybe its target audience is playing video games and surfin' the net instead of watching TV these days. Maybe it stumbled out of the gate, numbers-wise, and could never quite recover its stride. Maybe it aired on the wrong night. (Geeky admission: I TiVo the show and save it for Friday nights where I feel it belongs.) Whatever the case may be, it's a real shame. People are missing out. To put the numbers in perspective, the over-hyped and overblown "Desperate Housewives" draws three times the weekly audience that FNL does. I've watched both shows and can say unequivocally that there is no comparison when it comes to quality. In fact, Friday Nights Lights just might be the anti-Desperate Housewives.

Growing up, when my friends and I liked some slice of entertainment, we would repeat an exhausted cliche in a world-weary voice, "I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me." As much as it pains me not to have access to better words than those to describe my emotional involvement with the show, the cliche holds absolutely true. As long as you imagine me saying it with the world-weariest of tones, I may still cling to a shred of dignity as a writer. But this isn't about me. If you didn't watch this season when it aired, do yourself a favor and watch Friday Night Lights in reruns this summer or get the damn DVD as soon as it comes out. And don't be a schmuck by accidentally bringing home the DVD of the film. The movie's all right, but it's not even qualified to hold the TV show's jock strap.

Clear eyes... full hearts... can't lose.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Though he may not be The Godfather, he is my godfather. And he happens to be one of the greatest people I know. David Schiffer has been a role model, a surrogate father, and a best friend to me since I was born. He and his amazing wife Linda, their son Mark, and daughter Taryn have become my second family. On David's urging, I stayed with them for the entire year in 2000 while I was writing a screenplay. Not only did he refuse to accept rent from me, but he and Linda loved me, fed me, and bought me a gym membership as a birthday gift. They supported my endeavor and believed in me. At the time, David was starting up a software business and working like a dog to get it off the ground. Suffice it to say, it has since taken off. His company, Safe Banking Systems, develops and distributes software to major banks around the world, all in the pursuit of nabbing money launderers. Long Island Business News recently did a profile of David and SBS that better explains the ins and outs of his complicated job. In a way, you could say he's a white-collar version of Jack Bauer.

Maybe not. But he is fond of passing on the wisdom he has acquired over the years. The first of his favorite sayings is, "See It From Above." This advice was usually given when my less-than-stellar sense of direction frustrated him. He told me to think of driving directions as if I was looking down from a satellite. I thought it was also a great metaphor for life (as he intended). If you remove yourself from the situation long enough to see it from above, you can gain perspective on just about anything. Schiffer's second favorite saying is, "Just Show Up." This applies to the whole of life as well. Be the kind of person who always shows up when needed, whether expected of you or not. In its complete version, the phrase actually reads, "Just Show Up, You'll Figure Out What To Do When You Get There." I honestly have no idea if these aphorisms are going to read corny or not, but I can attest to them as words to live by. Schiffer has always showed up for me. And I don't need to see it from above to know that he is a truly special person. Love ya, Davey Baby.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


The following was written between 2:00 AM and 3:00 AM:

Last night, the once venerable "24" hit a nadir for the season and possibly the series. The thrill is gone, the fun is gone, now it's just plain lame.

First off, Audrey's not worth it. Jack's going to trade his life for Audrey's? Please, like Audrey is more valuable to the US and A than the greatest counterterrorist in the history of counterterrorism. Laughable. How many times has Audrey saved the fuckin' universe? And -- and this is a big one -- she's not hot. I mean, if Jack Bauer was going after some supersmart Betty who was a fraction as cool as he is, then maybe I can buy the motivation for his character to take that big a risk. But, come on, Jack, don't even think about ending it all over Audrey. Look at it this way, Jack... tomorrow's another really shitty day. More suspects to interrogate in cruel and imaginative ways. More no-win situations for you to somehow manage to snag victory from the jaws of defeat. More carrying on your techno-erotic love affair with Chloe. The sun may not come out tomorrow, Jack, but you can bet your bottom dollar there'll be some serious terrorism. Audrey won't be able to stop any of it. But you can. And you will. Just let her go, man. Why don't you take out that nice girl who works for the VP? Try her on for size. Or maybe go out with Connie Britton again. She sure is looking good these days...

Secondly... nice pratfall, President Palmer. The Velveeta people are on line 2, wanting to know if you're all right. Ugh, and the Vice President is standing there in the viewing box watching the speech while holding his letter of resignation. It reminded me of a recent late night snack I prepared for myself in which I melted three different kinds of cheese together to see what would happen. Why would the guy take questions? It violates the first rule of comedy and Presidential Addresses -- Get in late, get out early. Wayne held it together perfectly for a handful of comforting words to the nation and there's no question that should have been it. The audacity to open the floor to questions when his health is failing and there are an infinite number of details about the day's events that he could never in a million years talk to the press about. Just friggin' ridiculous.

Lastly, Ricky Schroeder sucks. He was cute as a button in The Champ and Silver Spoons. (I still don't know if I watched that show for him or because his house had a video arcade and a rideable toy train running through the living room.) He's in over his head, like he was on NYPD Blue. Oh wait, was that Zack from Saved By the Bell? Anyway, I don't believe for a millisecond that little Ricky Schroeder is going to push Jack Motherf-ing Bauer around.

The whole show just made me nauseous. Like they suckered us in with five and a half years of roller coasters and then wouldn't let us get off that stupid pirate ship ride that just goes back and forth and back and forth, threatening to flip all the way over but never actually doing so. And, of course, it's all in the name of continuing to sell us the same goods and services they've been shoving down our throats since Dennis Hopper tried out a crappy Czechoslovakian accent in his short stint as the bad guy. Thank God TiVo makes that all go away...