If you need me, I’ll be at the pool.
If you need me, I’ll be at the pool.
Santa Monica, CA — Seems the networks and streaming services are not quite done with Super Heroes, are sticking with struggling new series longer, and are ordering more and more pilots with some sort of built-in marketability (i.e., re-makes or spin-offs).
FX has renewed Legion for S2 as has Netflix for A Series of Unfortunate Events. Fox has picked up both Star and Lethal Weapon, and surprisingly, The Exorcist. Even NBC picked up struggling Taken and Timeless for S2. The CW found an unlikely creative hit in its reimagined Riverdale.
There’s Good News for Creativity. Bad News for Tiresome Trends. And Downright Ugliness in Re-makes and Spinoffs that are really just Hedged Bets to reach a minimal audience in a crowded marketplace with a glut of product.
Here are the shows that have caught my attention, for better and for worse…
T H E G O O D:
Amazon continues to make a few pilots and encourage the public to vote for which should be ordered to series. Marketing ploy? Absolutely. The New York Times TV Critics reviewed them (see link below). Imagine if those old Dinosaurs — broadcast networks, cable and other digital streaming services could get that kind of free publicity?!
Amy Sherman-Palladino’s pilot, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a period comedy about a housewife-turned-standup, has all the buzz, and remarkably, has been given a two season order. Sorry, Gilmore Girls fans, but you’ll probably have to wait a bit for that second season of the re-boot. Additionally, series star Lauren Graham toplines Linda from H.R., a comedy pilot for FOX, however, it’s not going forward to series.
T H E B A D:
Of course, there are more Super Heroes on the way. I hear the faint scratching sounds that denotes Television’s inevitable arrival at the bottom of the super hero barrel. Am thinking we may be near the end of this trend, despite DC Comics and Marvel Studios’ exhaustive best efforts:
T H E U G L Y:
And, Re-boots & Re-makes… Some will work. Most won’t, though. Blame Fox’s successful re-boot of The X-Files (which is coming back for 10 more episodes, btw).
Sometimes, ya get Laverne & Shirley. Most times, ya get After-MASH.
N E X T U P:
Forward/Story, A Report From Indonesia!
Santa Monica, CA – Just got an email from Peets Coffee alerting me that today is the Last Day to Order Mother’s Day Gifts with Free Shipping!
There is no Reply function available to this email, but if there were, I would send the following response:
My mother is dead. Your email wounds me!
And so it goes every May with endless emails from Home Depot, florists, and airlines, each proclaiming all these deals that are perfect for Mom!
Meanwhile, my Mom has been off-planet for 33 years.
Yet, that doesn’t stop Apple who insists via email that I should Celebrate Mom with Apple Gifts! Or American Airlines who wishes me to Earn Miles this Mother’s Day with Teleflora!
Or, Delta Airlines, who reminds me that Gifts for Mom Means More Miles For You! Or Dell Computers, who lets me know that You Know Mom Best, so Surprise Her with Our Gift Guide!
These emails go on and on arriving daily at a feverish pace no less than 3-4 weeks prior to Mother’s Day. What is the point of Facebook or Cookies and Algorithms when these vendors clearly have the wrong guy?
Pain. Unintentional Pain.
Each mention of Mother’s Day, each year, is like a tiny pin-prick on my skin, reminding me that I do not belong to this social group, that I do not celebrate this holiday despite the fact that I am a frequent flyer on American and Delta and that I use a Dell computer.
For these reasons, I dread Mother’s Day.
At least, I used to dread Mother’s Day until I helped create the bizarro version for the Bereaved:
Dead Mother’s Day.
I found a very specific tribe of like-minded individuals who shared my twisted sense of humor while a student at The Groundlings, LA’s improvisational comedy troupe.
Sandy, Claudette, Eve, and our improv teacher, the late great Cynthia Szigeti and I gathered at my home in Santa Monica for years celebrating Dead Mother’s Day, which we dubbed DMD.
Our mothers were all In The Great Hereafter.
And yet, Society still inundated us with commercials and events imploring us to celebrate this once beloved holiday. Since we couldn’t take our Moms out to Brunch, my funny and smart friends and I got together and toasted them with champagne and/or mimosas:
To Rose, Maureen, Flora, Cora, and Frances Bond!
So much laughter. So much fun. And some Grief.
We got creative, too. Some years, we’d bring our Moms’ favorite records (Johnny Mathis!) or read the last letter we each received from them (freshman year of college!), or something equally memorable.
Some years, we’d bring new members, but our core group remained the five of us.
DMD was our way of saying to the world that celebrating Mother’s Day the traditional way does not work for us.
I am so sorry for your loss — that empty-sounding phrase that never really serves to comfort the bereaved became our hilarious mantra. At least, it was hilarious to Us.
Year after year, friends would ask me, kinda hesitantly, So you doin’ that weird Mother’s Day thing of Yours again this year?
Claudette, Sandy, Cynthia, Eve and I learned so much about one another by telling the Group about our respective Mothers: Who they were, how they lived, how they died. I learned to love these friends even more by learning about The Women Who Made Them.
Those were some really special Brunches, usually at my house on 3rd Street in Santa Monica, and usually with Fried Chicken on the Menu. Or Quiche. Or fresh Asparagus from the Main Street Farmer’s Market. And always with fresh Strawberries and Coffee Ice Cream and Coffee & Bailey’s and more Champagne. The party lasted hours.
Sharing Grief eases the burden of one’s grief.
I see that now. But what was great about these friends and our gatherings was that we shared Our Love for Our Mothers which, in some small way, was a means to honor them.
(And hey, isn’t that the point of Mother’s Day?)
My friends supported me when I couldn’t be in Los Angeles and host the annual DMD because I was in Kentucky caring for my elderly father. Some years, I was there, some years I wasn’t, but the beautiful thing that happened was that Dead Mother’s Day did happen whether I was there or not. Cynthia threatened to bring the group to Kentucky, to bring the party to me. DMD was that important to her.
We really created something special. Our Mother’s Day was more than just another Brunch. It was a Gathering that became bigger than any one person. So cool. Always, Cynthia was the great Champion of DMD. She absolutely loved it.
This year, 2017, my friends and I are not gathering together at my house.
Eve is doing a play. Claudette now lives in the South of France and just finished writing her first novel.
Sandy works remotely running an international screenwriting competition and is living in Connecticut.
And Cynthia, our greatest friend, professional cheerleader and teacher, passed away in 2016 at the age of 65 after several years of struggling with Pulmonary Fibrosis.
Of course, I miss Cynthia dearly, but I don’t grieve for her.
Instead, I envision she’s in Heaven having a mimosa with her own mother, Rose, whom I know she loved more than any other, and that Cynthia has more than likely gathered all of our mothers for their own heavenly version of Dead Mother’s Day.
To Claudette, Sandy, Eve and Steve!
They are singing as they clink their glasses and share stories about us amid gales of laughter with Cynthia’s laugh being the loudest and happiest.
So bring on those annoying emails urging me to Buy Something for Mom! I can handle it, and so can my mother-less friends.
We continue to be Sorry for Our Loss but we also continue to honor our Mothers who really do live on through Us.
Salute! Let’s brunch.
N E X T U P:
Back to Television. Pilot Season.
Santa Monica , CA — Across the Bike Path from the Annenberg Community Beach House in North Santa Monica, is a non-descript, enclosed section of beach adjacent to an unused lifeguard tower not yet ready for Summer.
There’s no Signage.
To the naked eye, this relatively blank beachscape doesn’t look like much. An almost hidden walking path divides it in the middle, and the seemingly unremarkable area is completely fenced in on three sides but open to the Pacific Ocean. And yet, these unmarked 2+ acres of sand are pretty special.
In fact, this beach is Wild.
Inspired by the nationwide March for Science, I took the day off from Surfing and instead, I explored Santa Monica’s Beach Restoration Pilot Project and learned more about its usefulness during a presentation by Melodie Grubbs of The Bay Foundation.
(Shout out to my rural Kentucky public school science teachers: Roger Pepper (General Science), Rex Burd (Biology), Roy Long (Chemistry I & II) and Paula Setters (Physics)
Climate Change, that bastard, is coming for California’s Coastline with severe erosion predicted during the next 100 years. Here’s where California’s Wild Beach Project enters picturesque Santa Monica.
By not grooming these three acres of beach, The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are hoping to re-create natural sand dunes with vegetation that will be resilient to rising sea levels and will help protect our beautiful coastline.
Begun in December, Wild Beach was seeded with several types of vegetation (Sand Verbena, Evening Primrose), some of which has just started to sprout. As the former Head Gardener of Groundhog Hill Farms in my native Kentucky, I could relate to the shouts of excitement expressed by Grubbs when she saw the results of her group’s efforts: Stuff is growing! The seeding worked.
During 2017’s very rainy winter months, lots of driftwood and bamboo (along with way too much beach trash — mostly plastic drinking straws (looking at you, Perry’s Beach Cafe) washed up on the beach and onto the wild garden. Only the trash was removed.
So, what’s next for Wild Beach?
Birds. Snowy White Plovers, in fact. Per Grubbs, these birds haven’t nested in this area for 70+ years and have returned because of the tasty vegetation and a protected area that doesn’t get groomed on a daily basis.
So if you plan to visit, Do Not Disturb!
Meanwhile, there’s no volleyball or sunbathing going on in this area. The Bay Foundation has got to get some proper signage up soon to let the Public know what’s going on there before the fast-approaching busy summer months.
(Signs are on the way says project coordinator Grubbs, who spoke to a group of interested residents as part of Mayor Ted Winterer’s popular monthly Ride With The Mayor program, which ironically, was co-sponsored by Perry’s Beach Cafe. (Heads Up, Perry’s: You are terrific, but please ditch the plastic drinking straws!) City Manager Rick Cole was there as well, answering questions about upcoming city events like the Summer Concert Series and all things #GoSaMo.)
Can restoring an Eco-system to Santa Monica’s beaches help the fight against Sea Level Rise and Climate Change?
Only Time will tell if this restoration pilot project is successful. It’s definitely a lab experiment at the moment, but one that is both important and worthwhile.
I am reminded of a great Wendell Berry quote that goes something like this:
Invest in The Millennium.
Say that your main crop is the forest you will not live to harvest.
That’s what’s going on here, I think. The Bay Foundation and the City of Santa Monica are looking toward the Future. They can see some big problems heading our way and are looking at some creative solutions.
So remember, that blank stretch of enclosed beach across from the Annenberg Beach House, well, that beach is Wild.
Long may it be so.
U P N E X T:
Pilot Season — The Good. The Bad. The Super Heroes.
Santa Monica, CA — On Monday of this past week, I had painful Gum Surgery. By Friday, I had my first real meal in days, and it was outstanding.
When the Universe (or rather, your public radio station) offers you a complimentary dinner, the answer is always, Yes! Whether you feel great or not, whether you are not sure if you can chew or not, and whether your plus one can make it or not. Just say Yes. A good mantra for 2017.
So, from the dentist’s chair to a comfy bar seat at a 5-star downtown LA restaurant, I had a very interesting week which started off with me barely able to eat nothing more complicated than orange Jell-O or mashed potatoes, and ended with, well, read on…
Friday: On the train to downtown LA.
I will never decline a dinner (or lunch) invitation to meet a friend downtown ever again after experiencing the pleasure of taking the Expo Line train from Santa Monica: So nice not being stuck in traffic on LA’s congested freeways! At 6 PM, the Expo line was packed with folks heading back East after a day at the beach, but the hour commute passed quickly. There were one (or ten) people yakking away on their I-phones, but other than their inconsiderate selves, everyone seemed in good spirits which helped lift mine, as well.
The walk from 7th & Flower to 3rd & Broadway was a bit of hike, but to a New Yorker, the trek would mean nothing. Luckily, this Santa Monican was up for it (having lived and worked in Manhattan for two years).
Arriving at S P R I N G.
I meet Sophie, a beautiful French girl/woman, with whom I’ve been exchanging emails for the last 24 hours. (I had less than a day’s notice that I’d been given this dinner by my fabulous local public radio station, KCRW 89.9 FM, whose show, Good Food, ran a promotion on Twitter which I entered during a Vicodin-induced coma on the beach. I am a multi-tasker: I can recover from painful dental work and get some sun!)
What was great about Sophie is that she could not have cared less that I was without my Plus One, she was happy that I came and with great ease, comfortably installed me at the cozy Bar where I could enjoy my meal and observe the beautiful dining room and spacious kitchen at Spring. A trio of musicians were playing some lovely traditional music. The ambience was just right.
At the bar, I ordered an Antique Gold (saffron infused Old Tom gin, dry vermouth, lemon oil, served up). Strong but beautiful, I wisely decided to sip it…slowly. Afterall, this was my first sip of alcohol all week as well as my very first meal! I wanted to savor the occasion.
A beautiful dark-haired woman approached me at the bar, greeting me like an old friend. This was Yassmin Sarmadi, one of the partners at Spring, and the wife of the chef, Tony Esnault.
Persian New Year. Nowruz Pirooz.
What’s great about this dinner, this celebration of the Persian New Year, is that it’s all new to me. A new experience. Viva Life! Even slightly sedated and flying solo, I was able to take advantage of this cool opportunity to explore a new restaurant and to learn about a different food culture.
Spring is a French restaurant, but for tonight and the two evenings prior, Chef Tony and Yassmin had prepared a very special, 5-course, tasting menu commemorating Nowruz, the Persian New Year.
Nowruz. Passover. Easter. These holidays all celebrate the food of Spring.
Yassmin and I had a great discussion about the Right of Spring in Iran, and how the meal was the culinary welcoming of the new season with the first harvest of spring herbs, vegetables and lamb. Lovely. Just lovely.
Heretofore, I had never given much thought to how Iranians celebrate Spring in their cooking. Food has the power to unite us, and on this Friday evening in downtown Los Angeles, it did just that. There I sat at the bar, making new friends, and being introduced to new foods, new traditions, and new music. Nothing better.
The first course, Kuku Ye Sabzi, was a “frittata” of herbs, walnut and egg, topped with barberries and served with “sangak” bread and house-made yogurt. Delicious. Spring onions and Radish garnished the plate heralding Spring, my favorite season.
The second course, Sabzi Polo Ba Mahi, was a duo of smoked and pan-seared white fish, served with basmati rice and house-made pickled vegetables, and let me tell you, I have never eaten a more tasty piece of smoked fish. (photo above) Major Umami moment for me and my palate.
(Each course, btw, came with a Wine Pairing, which I declined seeing as how that might prove a lethal combo with my painkillers as well as the train ride back to SaMo. I continued to sip my Antique Gold cocktail and drank a lot of water.)
The main course, Reshteh Polo Ba Mahiche, was a succulent slow-braised lamb shank, served with rice and toasted wheat noodles, dates and raisins. Wow. Just wow. My second Umami moment of the meal. The lamb was fork tender and just melted in my dentally reconstructed mouth. So so good.
The fourth course, Bastani, was a trio of house-made Ice Cream: Pistachio (yum), Saffron (savory and exciting), and Rose (surprising and not perfume-tasting — my clear favorite).
The fifth and final course, Chai Va Shirini, was samovar brewed black tea served with a trio of cookies: Baklava, marzipan “toot”, and “nokhodchi.” The strong tea and these bite-sized cookies were the perfect finish to an outstanding meal. I sat at the bar, savoring my drink and wondered if Jonathan Gold, LA’s premier food writer who was sitting across the room, was having as wonderful an evening as I was. I hoped he was. The chances were good.
So there I sat, feeling slightly dazed and pleasantly stuffed, elated with this new dining experience as well as the cultural exchange of making new friends in Sophie, Yassmin and Chef Tony.
Lesson Learned: Continue to try New Things. Go to New Places. Meet New People. Whether You are with your Plus One or just flying solo. Go.
Also, support Public Radio. Thanks KCRW and the folks at Good Food (Evan Kleinman, Camelia Tse, Abbie Swanson).
I look forward to returning to Spring to see and to taste how they celebrate Summer.
N E X T U P:
Surfing Ocean Park and Destinations Unknown in SoCali.
Santa Monica, CA — Recently, I binge-watched the first season of Starz Channel’s compelling historical fantasy drama Outlander.
I realize I am kinda late to this Praise Party, but Tha sin sgoinneil sgeulachdan! which of course, is Gaelic for That is pure dead brilliant storytelling!
Credit goes to EP Ronald D. Moore (Battlestar Galactica) for such a successful adaptation of Diana Gabaldon’s international best-selling series of novels, which I have not read…yet!
Time Travel. A Woman in Jeopardy. Men in Kilts. Period British War Drama. It’s as if a woman from the 1940s got stuck in Braveheart and had to use her wits to survive.
Outlander has it all, but what I find most significant is the fact that I care about the characters and want to know how everything works out for Gabaldon’s heroine, Claire Beacham Randall Fraser (as played compellingly by Irish actor Caitriona Balfe).
Moore’s series succeeds on all technical levels. Everything works, from Casting (Balfe; a star-making role for actor Sam Heughan who is my choice to replace Daniel Craig as James Bond; a fantastic villain portrayed by Tobias Menzies; and an all-around excellent roster of supporting players led by Graham McTavish and Lotte Verbeek) to Costumes to Production Design to Music (by BSG vet Bear McCreary). All departments are bringing their A-game transporting the viewer to 1700s Scotland.
Moore’s writing team includes a coupla industry veterans, too: Anne Kenney (LA Law) and Toni Graphia (Chicago Hope).
Costume Designer Terry Dresbach is married to Moore, and according to the Special Features interview on the DVD, she brought the Outlander books to the attention of Moore and his producing partner, Maril Davis.
The costumes are really something to behold, and the behind-the-scenes look at their production is fascinating. Dresbach even has her own blog:
Scotland. I really really want to go there after watching the first season. Somehow, Moore & Co. have avoided the Renaissance Pleasure Faire experience of it all. The majestic and mysterious Highlands are calling to me: Tighinn An So! (Come hither!)
Of course, Outlander has increased tourism for Scotland, much like Downtown Abbey did for Highclere Castle outside London. And there are Outlander tours designed for “women of a certain age,” as my one and only friend in Edinburgh tells me.
He’s dead wrong, of course. He’s also a writer. And, a chauvinist. He’s missing out by not watching an international hit shot on location in his own country, too. Bloody Fool! The appeal of Outlander is quite broad. There’s something for everyone, including Romance.
Gabaldon’s story starts with Claire traveling through Time from post-WWII Britain and getting caught up with the rugged men of the McKenzie Clan. That’s Season One.
I descend from Clan MacDougall. Outlander has reignited my interest in an unexplored branch of my Family Tree. This week, my browser history shows that I have been googling Tartan Plaids. And a Scottish castle, Dunollie.
Here’s the MacDougall Tartan:
Note to Self: Find out where and who can make a Kilt.
Confession: I have not watched Game of Thrones on HBO. Am too attached to the fantastic books by George R.R. Martin to let another story version into my head. I read the books first. That’s an important distinction.
With Outlander, I was viewing blind with no preconceptions or expectations about the Story or Characters. Like a good book, I was immediately drawn in by Moore’s storytelling and by Gabaldon’s enthralling heroine, who at one very poignant moment realizes she’s been split into three versions of herself due to her Traveling: The Woman She Was. The Woman Trying To Get Back. The Woman Who Wishes To Stay.
Adaptations are a Big Trend right now in Television. Starz is set to premiere Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, Netflix has a new version of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables, and Hulu has Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. AMC is in production on Sarai Walker’s Dietland, while HBO has signed on to produce Nathan Hill’s The Nix. Amazon and Oscar-winner Barry Jenkins (Moonlight) are adapting Colson Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad as a limited series.
Historical Fantasy is a definite favorite of mine, too. Starz seems pretty big on this genre as well as evidenced by Da Vinci’s Demons, Black Sails, The White Queen, and The White Princess.
Bravo, cable television!
Anne Rice and Christopher Rice have recently partnered with Paramount Television and Anonymous Content to adapt The Vampire Chronicles. The studio has optioned 11 of Rice’s books which is a good sign. They mean business. Let Outlander and Showtime’s brilliant Penny Dreadful as well as Game of Thrones be their guideposts on how to adapt a good book series well.
So if you have not yet discovered Outlander, give it a binge. Pour a glass of Dewar’s or Johnny Walker Black, and settle in for a good time.
As for me, Season 2 awaits. Then, I’ll have until September when Season 3 premieres.
Tlachd a ghabhail! (That’s Gaelic, of course, for Enjoy!)
N E X T U P:
The Good. The Less Good. The Super Heroes.
Santa Monica, CA — When I am not surfing, I love to play tennis, and it’s one of the very few sports I consistently watch on TV. This past week, the world’s best players showcased the sport in Key Biscayne at the Miami Open.
One big reason I remain engaged with this sport (after 40 years) is its most popular and successful men’s player: Roger Federer, the Swiss Maestro.
Federer is enjoying an incredible 2017, having won his 18th Grand Slam at the Australian Open in January. And while I cannot play Tennis like Roger Federer, I can dress like him, and so can you, dear Reader … but it’s gonna cost both you and me quite a few bucks.
This past weekend, 35-year-old Federer stunned the Sports World for the third time in three months when he won the Miami Open beating rival Rafael Nadal for the third time this season. Last month, Federer won the BNP Paribas Open in Indian Wells, CA, beating countryman Stan Wawrinka 6-4, 7-5 in the final. His one-handed backhand is a thing of beauty.
And as usual, Federer looked pretty darn stylish.
Federer wore a sharp-looking green Henley shirt (by Nike) during his matches at Key Biscayne and at Indian Wells. I predict that shirt will be a big seller in the months to come.
It is the shirt of a Winner.
Top players like Federer, Nadal, Serena Williams (Womens Tennis’ G.O.A.T) and Novak Djokovic all change up their clothes so that viewers/tennis players wanting to emulate their style will keep up with their changing looks. You won’t see Federer wearing the same shirt or shoes at Roland-Garros (aka, the French Open) that he wore at the Australian Open, and definitely not at Wimbledon (which features predominantly white clothing).
But what does it cost to dress like Federer on-court, not to mention off-court? GQ Magazine boasts Federer on the cover this month, and inside its pages, Federer’s casual dressy clothing ensembles could run ya anywhere from $155 (casual wear) to $10k (dressy), and the very expensive Rolex watch is not included.
The clothes look great, and Federer is one of those guys who wears clothes well.
I am a tennis player. I sometimes wear Nike shoes, Addidas wristbands, Nike shorts, and a Head dry-sweat sports Shirt. I am not stuck on Labels. My clothes are all over the place and could best be described as Hodgepodge. I could definitely use a wardrobe makeover even though I am an amateur club player (without a club…it’s public courts for me in Santa Monica).
I have been playing since Junior High School when my brother Ben and I rode our Western Auto bikes a coupla miles to the high school tennis courts in Hodgenville, KY.
Our first wood rackets (see photo below of me and my Jack Kramer Autograph) were purchased via S&H Green Stamps attained at the local grocery (thanks, Mom!). Clothing and Sports Attire were pretty much an afterthought.
We wore Converse tennis shoes with zero arch support and tube socks, shorts and a t-shirt. In school, tennis season was Springtime when it usually rained out a lot of practice sessions and most scheduled matches. Sweats and sweatshirts ruled the day.
A few decades later, I have matured along with my taste in tennis clothes. I know I should and could dress better, but I love my sweat-stained SMU Mustangs hat and my 2002 US Open T-shirt.
So, How much does it cost to dress like Roger Federer?
Were I to hit the court today, or in two days courtesy of Amazon or Tennis Warehouse, dressing like Federer would cost me about $1,000.00 (plus extra for tennis balls, extra rackets, and string jobs).
His pricey Rolex watch is not included. In fact, Federer has a collection of them: https://www.rolex.com/every-rolex-tells-a-story/roger-federer-rolex-watch.html
So, should I go online and emulate Federer from head-to-toe, here’s the breakdown of his clothes and racket(s) with retail prices courtesy of TENNIS WAREHOUSE – FEDERER’S CLOTHES (assuming shipping will be free if ya go for the entire Fed Kit):
Federer personifies Cool. I like his clothes, his style, his gentlemanly demeanor both on-court and off. He seems to really like Clothes, ya know?
One of these days, I’ll update my tennis clothes, piece by piece, to get it together. So don’t get your hopes up just yet, Tennis Warehouse. (And back off with the daily emails, please!). Meanwhile, there’s always Surfing!
N E X T U P:
Throwback Thursday and How I Rocked The Generic Sweatshirt Look in the ’70s.