Tuesday, February 28, 2006


After a long hiatus, it's the return of the TUESDAY TOP FIVE!

Now that you all know about Our Man in LA's Bottom One for the week, it's time to move into the good stuff. I know you folks are swamped, sneaking a read during working hours, so we'll get right into the middle of it.

And away we go . . .

5) LA Clipper Nation - Since the beginning of the NBA season, I've been in high gear about my new hometown's Clipper basketball team, which remains the best team in Los Angeles, and the second best in the Pacific division, far ahead of the better-known but not better-playing LA Lakers.

Got a chance to hit another game last night. Free tickets, courtesy of my place of employment (which meant they were just about as high into the rafters as you can get). But because I do work for a non-profit, I did get a chance to meet Clipper owner Donald Sterling in the moments before the game, which was super cool. How often do you meet a sports owner at all, let alone one who's been happy to let his little Clippers grow and develop, even in the shadows (and same arena) as big, bad Kobe? Yeah, I'm saying it sort of tongue in cheek. Yeah, it's a little sarcastic. Whatever. It was still sort of cool.

The game itself, not as much. The Clips, without center Chris Kaman (ugliest man in the NBA - look it up at nba.com!) played the anemic Charlotte Bobcats. But it gave me, and my good buddy Dave, a chance to observe Clipper culture. Like this:

It's possible that David Hasselhoff is the Clippers' Jack Nicholson.

There he was, the former Knight Rider, the former Nick Fury: Agent of SHIELD, the huge-in-Europe pop star, and the brains behind Baywatch, sitting at half court on the floor. Staying to the bitter end of the game, chatting away with on-lookers and entourage. Polishing the glasses that I'm still not sure he needs.

Sure, I always thought he was TV's version of Patrick Swayze, but apparently Hasselhoff is so much more. With the Clips, he holds court. Dave and I began a chant of "Hasselhoff! Hasselhoff!", pretty much to the cadence of "Air Ball! Air Ball!" We got the kids in the crowd into it.

Of course, the Hasselhoff didn't look up. He's too big for us fans these days. Like the Clips, we're just privileged to be in his presence.

4) Ye Rustic Inn and The Drawing Room - When you think about coming to LA and doing a little bar-hopping, you usually think it's going to be at some hoppin' place on Sunset with beautiful people, martinis that go into three figures, and the like. Or maybe it's one of those darkened clubs with no sign out front, off an alley somewhere, where the hipsters drink and play the bongos.

And sometimes you just want a bar. Nothing pretentious, nothing too heavy. Just a hole in the wall with a decent juke, good deals on tap, and maybe a few hardcore alcoholics crumpled up in a corner somewhere.

I'm happy to say that once again, my home base of Los Feliz delivers the goods. Friday night was girl's night in this section of the world, which meant that Our Woman in LA was off partying with the ladies. So my buddy Nick and I headed out in search of beverages. There was a stop at the Improv Olympic bar on Hollywood, but mostly because he knew the bartender, and that meant drinking cheaper. But later, we ventured out to Ye Rustic Inn and The Drawing Room, two holes in the alcoholic wall, across the street from each other on Hillhurst.

No frills, but full-up, these bars were. Good times. Loud metal rock from the 80s playing, good deals on bottles of Stella and Sam Adams, and attentive bartenders with a lot of tattoos. If I closed my eyes, I could hear the echoes of the late lamented Lakeview bar on Broadway at Barry in Chicago, torn down years ago now to make room for a Quizno's.

A real bar, I thought, smiling. No smoke inside, which gave the lungs a break. But a real bar. Happy is Our Man in LA.

3) Yoga. From the liver-damaging effects of a good bar, to the return of holistic health. Our Man in LA has lived in SoCal for 20 months now, and though he's still the same guy, it seemed only a matter of time before he started taking up more of the "California lifestyle".

It started with the 5K and 10K races. The wife and I working out more. Continued on with more attention to the wine list at restaurants, complaints about paying for parking, and shock - SHOCK - when it rains outside.

And last week, I started something else. Took a yoga class for the first time.

Not a hard one, not heavy duty. Just stretching and moving the body in a different way. Just restoring the breathing and the blood flow. Just clearing the mind a little bit.

Mostly, I really liked it. I won't lie. I'd never done some of those stretches before, so no matter how relaxing someone says "Child's pose" is, well, after 30 minutes, it starts to hurt. And after one two-hour session, the wife and I both came down with a noxious flu-cold mix.

But the rest was amazing. I've never been able to shut down my brain like I did during this. Found myself impressed by the ways I could control my breathing and stretching.

We're signing up for the classes. Our Man in LA (and Our Woman, too) are getting yoga-fied. Starting this weekend.

2) SEA CHANGE by Robert B. Parker. Longtime readers know that Parker's just about my favorite mystery author, both because he delivers the goods and because I have fond memories getting to know the genre through his early Spenser novels.

This one's a Jesse Stone novel. Jesse, who's appeared in a few other Parker books, is an alcoholic ex-LAPD detective relocated to a small town in Massachusetts. He lives in the same world as Spenser and Hawk, but he navigates it differently, and he's got a load more in the way of personal demons. A couple of these books have made it to TV in two-hour dramas with Tom Selleck in the lead role. Not bad movies, better books.

This one might be the best Stone novel so far. Funny at times, with crackling dialogue, but the plot will disturb. Best of all, it's got that Parker flow. You won't put it down.

Did I say best of all? No, actually, best of all, is that my copy is signed by Parker himself, and personalized for me and Our Woman in LA. I saw and met Parker at a signing at Vroman's Books in Pasadena. It's something I've wanted to do since I was a kid, but he generally only hits spots in New England and the warm weather states in the book tours. It's not that he said anything I hadn't read in a million interviews. It was just being around someone I've read since adolescence, then getting him to sign the book, and then getting to take it home and read it. Cool stuff.

And finally, at long last in a long post . . .

1) Masters of Comics at the Hammer Museum and Museum of Contemporary Art in Los Angeles. One of our friends gave me two tickets to this exhibit for Christmas-akkuh this year, and because of busy schedules, the wife and I only got there over this past weekend.

If you're in LA between now and March 12, go. Period. Just go.

If you're not, but you will be in Milwaukee or Brooklyn - the next two stops on the tour - this year, check the website, find the time, and go.

Here's that site, by the by:


Go for any number of reasons. Go because you will see an emerging artform that hasn't previously gotten the credit it deserves in the United States. Go because you'll be amazed at the ways in which the 15 truly fine artists meld words and picture to tug at the heart or communicate a message differently than what you see on TV, or read in novels. Go because you'll be shocked at the pure energy and intensity that you feel coming off the comics page.

Our Woman in LA found herself a little worried before we walked in the door of the Hammer Museum. She imagined us going through room after room of pictures of Spider-man and Batman, seeing super-hero comics where women display, ahem, peculiar proportions.

But actually only one of the artists in the exhibit - the late Marvel and DC Comics great Jack Kirby was virtually all-super-heroes, all the time. The rest looked at the world - the whole world - from a variety of different perspectives. You had the sorrow of urban life in Eisner, the childhood pathos of Schulze, the violence and pain of Panter, the obsessions of Crumb, and self-reflexive artistry of King.

Taken as a whole, really, truly amazing. And a wonderful sign that this artform - huge in Japan and Europe, not as huge in its home here in the States - finally begins to rise to its natural level. I look forward to the day when it won't seem so strange to be talking of comics in the same way we discuss novels, movies, theatre, painting, dance, sculpture, and all the arts.

Did I like every artist on the panel. No. They're not all my taste. Like Our Woman in LA, my three faves were the late great Charles Schulze and Will Eisner, and the living, breathing Art Spiegelman. Some of the others I like a great deal, some not as much. Which is exactly the way I feel after any kind of art exhibit.

So there you have it. Get to the exhibit if you can. Marvel at the artistry and storytelling in this much-derided artform. Or if you can't, you can always view the collection in your own home. Check this volume out:


That's about all for today, folks. See you tomorrow!


Tuesday Bottom One

As promised, ladies and gentlemen, Our Man in LA is coming to you for a second day in a row from here in the now drying-out City of Angels. Had a big rainstorm last night, which meant panic in the streets, parking lots on the freeways, and a lot of "Stormwatch '06" graphics on the TV news.

But that's not what I'm here to talk about today. No sir, it's time once again for the Tuesday Bottom One . . . to be followed closely behind by the Tuesday Top Five.

And it has to do with my beloved Mighty Mighty Texas Longhorns. If you've been following the sports news of late - and there's no reason you should, since it's that dead zone before the really cool basketball stuff happens and after football's over - you might have noticed something.

Namely, that it's become a popular pastime to diss former Longhorn QB Vince Young. Now that it's a month past his Rose Bowl heroics, and arguably the best display of athleticism from a college athlete in many years, we're hearing that Vince is no good. Won't be a success. Lot of questions.

Here are some examples:

1) Oh my God! Vince has a weird throwing motion! Nobody's going to want to draft him! Even though Dallas QB Drew Bledsoe has one, too. And there were similar digs on Tom Brady and an assortment of other pros.

Well, that's a hmm, I guess. But not a big one.

2) Oh my Word! He rarely throws the long ball, and when he has, it hasn't been against NFL defenses, it's been against mediocre Big 12 defenses. Now I'm not here to defend the Big 12 - it sucked this year. But wait. Every college QB threw against college defenses, right? Matt Leinert of USC threw against the Pac 10, a conference that didn't exactly distinguish itself this year. Didn't Oklahoma, a shadow of its former self, beat up on supposedly tough Oregon? Didn't #3 school UCLA have trouble putting away #6 Big Ten team Northwestern? And then there's new pretty boy Jay Cutler. He threw against the SEC, which also was so-so this year, and he still lost a bunch of games.

Yup, sounds like a wash to me.

3) Oh my Golly! He's not working out at the NFL Combine, and some reporters for the NFL Network are saying that could ruin his stock. Except that none of the alleged Top 3 prospects are working out there. And that's pretty much the status quo. Guys in the Top Five usually don't.

Another wash.

4) Oh Holy Guacamole! He didn't do well on the Wonderlich test, which tests problem solving at an accelerated rate. I'm a big believer in testing players' smarts, but Dan Marino didn't set the test on fire, either. Leinert did, but then so did Tim Couch.

Bored yet?

Look, folks, admittedly, I'm a Texas homer. No two ways about it. And admittedly, I'm obsessively reading every opinion that dogs Vince on every sports website, and listening to every radio report - as if I need a reason to raise my stress level. That's my problem.

But this really is pretty dumb, isn't it? I mean, when you draft players from college into the NFL, you never really know what you'll get. I'm sure the San Diego Chargers thought they were getting a deal with Ryan Leaf - he was the biggest sure thing this side of Leinert. And my hometown Bengals were pretty excited about sure-thing RB Ki-Jana Carter (shades of Reggie Bush).

That is, until he ran one play in a pre-season exhibition game and suffered a career-ending injury.

Some of these players in this year's draft will be good. Others no. Some in the middle. Will Vince be one for the ages? I don't know. Hope so. But I don't imagine that's going to affect the outcome at all.

So I have to go. Top Five coming up. But first, I have to go check the sports writers to see if anyone dissed Vince in the time since I started writing this.

Monday, February 27, 2006


News item: Our Man in LA not dead!

I know, I know, I know.

Sorry. Seriously, very sorry.

Hard to believe, but it's been a month of radio (or Internet) silence from that Midwestern boy out among the lights and stars of LA. Wish I had a good excuse for my absence . . . and I do, sort of. I just can't go into it as much here, not for a little while still.

But when I break open the real story . . . man, it's gonna be great. And if not great, then at least good. If not good, then at least fair. If not fair, well, look, it'll be at least marginally better than a poor story.

The point is, Our Man in LA is back. Blame the absence on the February Sweeps Month - it makes everything out in LA uber-hectic. And as you know, this CW has a whole lot of business going on, getting his CW Network off the ground for next season.

Got that Aquaman show coming on come September. It's called Mercy Reef. Doesn't quite roll off the tongue like "Smallville", does it? Yeah, well, a superhero in blue and red who flies is an easier sell than a superhero in orange and green who talks to dolphins and octopi. Them's the facts.

At least we got Vincent Chase from ENTOURAGE starring in it. Wait, what? No? No Vinnie Chase? Ving Rhames? We have Ving Rhames in Aquaman?


By the way, that last bit was serious. Not a joke. Ving Rhames. Marcellus Wallace himself. Hot off the success of his Kojack remount, this is Aquaman's mentor - a lighthouse keeper in, ahem, mammal's world.

Yeah. I don't know if I'll watch it, either. I liked MAN FROM ATLANTIS with Patrick Duffy, when I was like six.

But back on target. Sorry about all this. A little unfocused for that first blog back. Lots to report from hazy, rainy LA. Our Man in LA is hard at work, toiling at scripts, fund raising his heart out, and generally taking in the culture of this city on the edge of the Western World.

Here's the guarantee. You'll start hearing about it every day again. Tomorrow will bring the first Tuesday Top Five in quite a while. And then we'll find something interesting, or at least moderately amusing, to fill the other days of the week.

So not a joke, not a prank. Not a mirage in the desert of the Southern California basin. Our Man in LA is back, and he won't take a vacation like this one for quite some time.

See you tomorrow.

PS. Congrats to the Rolnick-Lippmans on being moved into their new casa. Viva new casa!

PPS. Our Woman in LA says hi. See you right here on Tuesday.

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