Friday, March 31, 2006


Heading into the weekend, Here Comes a Regular . .

If you attended Northwestern University in the early 90s, I hope you had a good time. I certainly did. Even thinking back about those days, I'm drawn to fond memories of huge parties in my apartment, broken up by the police and landlord-inflicted power outages.

I remember painfully strong G&T's that I mixed to music. I remember hanging out with buddies, watching Batman cartoons and having a beer after a long day of classes. I remember study breaks at midnight to watch Letterman, followed by the parade of freaks on Jenny Jones. Late night viewings of BLADE RUNNER (my generation's 2001), followed by long discussions about the nature of man.

Every weekend featured some kind of party. Every weekday included one of those moments that made college so cool.

And yeah, I remember some of the things that I learned in class, which is why my parents shelled out an obscene amount of money to send me to the idyllic hamlet of Evanston for four years. Really, Mom, I do.

Anyway, if you were there at old NU back in the day, and you ended up at one of our parties (and a lot of people did), you probably got cornered at one point by an, ahem, intoxicated Our Man in LA, who then regaled you for hours upon hours about his favorite band, inarguably the greatest garage band in the history of the known universe.

The Replacements.

Well, it's many years later. My G&Ts are made for human beings now, and I can't stay up for whatever comes on after Letterman. But the Replacements are back, and I couldn't be happier.

Read about it here:

Read about it, and then anticipate getting cornered to hear all about them.

They're still without question my favorite band of all time. Nobody channeled the anger of a Midwestern misspent boyhood the way these guys did. They were all about the very things that rock and roll songs ought to be about - anger, pain, alienation, and mocking the Man.

They played with a hard edge, and they didn't give a rat's ass about all the things that pretty boy rockers of today seem consumed by. They didn't do much in the way of videos. They had a single SNL appearance that was disastrous. Even their last concert - at Taste of Chicago (which I attended) - only made one, offhanded mention of this being the end of the road for these guys.

Right there before the last song, lead singer Paul Westerberg yelled out a quick jab at the crowd: "Last f***in' time you'll hear this!"

They played the song, and then were gone. No ceremony, no nothing. No mention in the celeb tabloids. Barely a mention in the Sun-Times.

I kept the faith. Besides my regular rants at college keggers, there's always a Replacements disc nearby. When I wrote my movie, THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, I had their album TIM on my headphones. Played it over and over again. Almost called the movie BASTARDS OF YOUNG, after their great song.

Now that faith's rewarded. Can't hardly wait for the new songs and the new collection. Peace out.

Now who needs a G&T?

Thursday, March 30, 2006


Special thanks to the folks from Indiana

I know it's time for the Weekly Bottom One, which I usually try to post on Wednesdays or Thursdays. We'll get there, I promise. In the meantime, I wanted to sound off about a newsbyte from the world of sports. If you're sensing that I'm just stalling because I either a) don't have a Bottom One; or b) don't have one that's very new or interesting . . . well, you're not wrong. I have one, but longtime readers might feel as though I'm beating a dead horse.

So I'll beat a sick one instead. Perhaps we'll end the post with two dead or dying horses. Stay tuned.

Anyway, if you follow the world of college basketball at all, you may have heard that historic Big Ten powerhouse Indiana University hired Kelvin Sampson this week to replace Mike Davis (who replaced legendary semi-lunatic Bob Knight) as head b'ball coach. It's an interesting move for IU - one that might be quite good, but that certainly isn't without questions.

More to the point, though, it's a really big favor that IU has done for Our Man in LA.

Let me digress here for a second. As some of you know, I'm not exactly objective when it comes to Indiana. The Hoosiers rank fairly high in my internal hierarchy of teams, the college football and basketball squads I root for most often. Like a lot of fans, I have a fairly complete understanding of what school I root for, and when.

Basically it boils down like this. Northwestern, my undergraduate alma mater, is on top. I root for them in football and basketball above all other teams. The fact that they're usually terrible in basketball and fair in football, though, leaves room for other teams to sneak into the hierarchy.

Number two by a small margin is Texas. The Mighty Mighty Longhorns are my next favorites, and they have (to my knowledge) never played NU in any of the big sports. Wouldn't be pretty if they did. If my two faves were ever to match up, I would hope that the Wildcats would kindly at least show up, and that Texas wouldn't blow them out by 70 points. Otherwise, I'm cool with any outcome.

Those are the top two by a wide margin. I root for those guys against just about everyone. My number three is Ohio State, my dad's school, which got into my internal fan structure the earliest. I have a lot of good memories of visiting Ohio Stadium as a kid, and so I still root for the Buckeyes, except when they're playing NU or Texas.

Then comes Indiana, alma mater for my mom and just about every other relative that I have. Sure, I've like IU more in basketball than in football for obvious reasons. For a long time, I was a Bobby Knight apologist when he was the Hoosier coach. I still believe that if the General didn't exist, you'd have to invent him. He's a voice for college sports that's funny in press conferences and outrageous, worthy of discussion, and so on. That said, the guy's been more than a little nuts since the mid 90s, and probably shouldn't still be doing this. And I still root for the Hoosiers without him.

After that, it gets hazier about the teams I follow. I've got some lesser loyalties to North Carolina and UCLA, which serve as my teams in the ACC and Pac 10. I've taken classes at UCLA and my brother-in-law went to UNC. I would normally have put DePaul, official alma mater of Our Woman in LA, in with those schools, but alas, she doesn't care much about Blue Demon b'ball, so it seems stupid for me to.

There ends the digression. Which brings us back to Kelvin Sampson, new Hoosier coach. He's an interesting choice. Currently being investigated by the NCAA for recruiting violations, he could bring some postseason sanctions with him to Bloomington. And it's kind of ironic that the only time he's made it to the Final Four is the year that he got beaten by the hated Mike Davis and his Indiana team.

That said, he's also one of the best coaches in the Big 12, home of the Mighty Mighty Longhorns. And that brings us to the favor that IU has granted me.

See, the Longhorns, long a football power, have gotten good at basketball the last few years. And Sampson's teams were among the Horns' toughest competition in the conference. With Sampson gone, it's a longer, straighter highway between Austin and wherever the Final Four is in a given year.

As a Longhorn fan, I'm not worried about Baylor, Texas Tech, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas State (even with crazy Bob Huggins), or even the much improved Texas A&M. Missouri's a few years away, Iowa State's not great, Okie State's nothing special.

Which leaves us with Kansas and Oklahoma. Tough competition.

With Sampson gone, one down, one to go. I'd make a joke about KU coach Bill Self in here, but my friend Rob (a Kansas alum) can do it better - he's got a million of them.

So thanks, Indiana. We Longhorns salute you. Bye, Kelvin. Won't miss you.

So that's my IU coach post, and I'm sticking to it.

The Bottom One for the week? It's the TV show LOST again. I know lots of folks thought last night was all great and everything, but to me it was just another nail in the show's coffin. I've taken to reading while it's on so as to cut my anger levels at the show's incessant teasing with a fact here and a fact there.

Why didn't I like it? Mostly because just about everything that was interesting was in the trailer - which was 30 seconds long. Am I wrong to be glad that Katey Sagal dumped Locke in the flashback? Am I wrong to be angry that psycho torture creep Sayid and psycho bad actress Ana Lucia were right about the tool that they captured, even though he didn't apparently do anything wrong other than lie?

And again, who gave psycho junkie hobbit bastard Charlie a gun? Was that in the script, or did he just bring it to the set that day?

I'll grant you that the poker scenes between Jack and Sawyer (two of the only characters on the show that I still sort of like) was entertaining, but was it worth all the other garbage? Am I wrong?

That's fine if you think so. I just need some TV methadone. Said it before, I'll say it again.

Mister, you know a clinic where I can get clean of LOST?

I had a couple of other Bottom One candidates, by the way. But they lost some steam. Thought I'd lost my wedding ring the other day. Freaked out, looked everywhere, opened up all the pipes to all the sinks in our house, releasing a terrible odor. Found the ring in my hamper.

Am I wrong to blame Locke and Sayid for this?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006


Cold and rainy, that's true . . . But there's still room for a Tuesday Top Five

Greetings from cold, rainy, and foggy Los Angeles. That's right. We're in the midst of the rainy season here, and the temperature's a chilly 60 degrees or so, not at all what Our Man and Our Woman in LA signed up for when we headed out west. This is the kind of weather that makes you want to curl up in a favorite chair and read a book or watch some basketball.

If you agree, you'll probably notice a certain theme running through this edition of the Tuesday Top Five.

5. Busby's Bar and Grill in Santa Monica. Went here on Saturday to watch the Texas-LSU game with a buddy of mine. The outcome of the game was far from ideal (but what the hell, the Longhorns had a good season and the Elite Eight ain't bad), but the surroundings were just fine. Texas fans held court at the bar and in the booths, rooting for the burnt orange until Big Baby and the lads from Louisiana put them away. Decent food, good beer on tap, and an interesting way to watch a game.


You're watching the game, and CBS takes you to commercial. What does the bar's DJ do? He takes down the sound, so you don't hear the shills for Just Tires or Coors Light or whatever. Instead, you hear whatever Top 40 song he decides to shell out - and like a light rock Top 40 station, he played the best of the 80s, 90s and beyond.

Seriously, listening to the music was like strapping into a time-traveling DeLorean a la Marty McFly. The game would go to commercial, and Genesis would come up on the speakers. Whoa! We're back in college, at a CD-release party at the late and fair but not great Rose Records.

I turned to my buddy. Told him I was having weird time travel flashback thingies from the music. He shared my feelings about the mix of songs.

Then next commercial. Pow! Dave Matthews Band is up. Holy cow, it's the mid-90s again. People have just heard of this guy. Then back to the game. Then back to commercial. Crash! It's some song from high school. And so on.

Alas, unlike Marty McFly, I did very little in my time traveling adventures. Mostly I just drank beer and ate nachos. Which may or may not be how I spent a good deal of college and the mid-90s.

4) BIRTH OF A NATION by Aaron Magruder, Reginald Hudlin, and Kyle Baker. An amazing little graphic novel from the folks who bring you THE BOONDOCKS, HOUSE PARTY, and PLASTIC MAN. Funny and smart, it tells the tale of a presidential election where a number of African American voters in the extremely rough town of East Saint Louis are disenfranchised and unable to vote. As a result, a moron from Texas wins.

High fantasy, I know. Suspend your disbelief as best you can.

On the heels of this election injustice, the city of East St. Louis secedes from the USA and becomes its own country. Its mostly African American leadership creates a new army, creates new avenues for education and development, and with the creation of an "onshore off-shore bank" quickly goes from being one of the poorest cities on Earth to one of the richest nations.

I'm a big fan of Magruder's BOONDOCKS cartoon, not to mention Kyle Baker's work on PLASTIC MAN. This book plays as great satire, with more than a few laugh out loud moments that will make your wife turn and stare at you as if your hair is on fire.

Really good stuff. Check it out.

3) Pre-season baseball reporting. For my money, if you want high comedy, look no further than the bevy of baseball reporting going on right now from your favorite newspaper or online publication. It's all pretty hilarious.

Take for example, this article:

Shucks, if you don't want to read it all, I'll summarize. In two sentences:

"Oh my Gosh, is this the year that the Cubs finally overcome the curse and win the World Series? No."

Here's another:

And here's my summary, again in two sentences:

"Guys, it's possible - just possible - that Barry Bonds has been using steroids, according to this new book. He gained a whole lot of muscle mass a few years back, and his head got really, really big, and it's possible it wasn't natural."

There are more articles, of course. Things like "Here's the team that we think is a dark horse to win the World Series but will likely be terrible." For those of you who follow baseball, that's usually the New York Mets or the Toronto Blue Jays.

And so on.

Well, anyway, I think it's funny.

2) STRAY BULLETS by David Lapham. This, on the other hand, is not really funny, but it's another terrific graphic novel. Drifting from story to story, it shows the ripple effects and consequences of petty crime and living a low life in early 80s Baltimore. Witness a virginal teenage kid get the come-on from a 20-something barfly, only to be pummeled nearly to death by her drug pusher boyfriend. Check out the life and times of a little, borderline psychotic girl who witnesses a murder and then tries to kill one of her third grade classmates, only to have a really horrid revenge visited on her.

Or there's the story of the hired killer who ends up killing all his buddies because they crack wise about a prostitute he loved mostly from afar.

Nope. It ain't funny stuff at all. But the art and writing are tremendous. You can't take your eyes off it. Critics at have described this series as Ferris Bueller or the Breakfast Club meets Taxi Driver, and that's about the size of it. Every time you come to really like, really sympathize with one of Lapham's characters, you remember that he or she lives in this terribly violent and nihilistic world - and that this character is a product of that environment. Chilling, really.

Finally, we have our number one thing for the week of March 27. It can only be one thing, right? And that's . . .

1) The Final Four. Seriously, how can't you love these four schools. I love them, and one of them knocked off my Texas Longhorns on Saturday. But I can't stay mad at any of them. What a great group. All the sure things packed up and went home this weekend, creating the first tourney matchup since 1979 (when Bird faced Magic for the first time) that no Number One seeds make it to the end.

Look at these four. Just amazing . . .

LSU - So they knocked off the Longhorns. So I'd almost rather see LSU play Texas in football. So what? How do you not love Big Baby, their star center? What is it about LSU and big men, anyway? How do you not love these guys, all hometown Baton Rouge talent, who have seen their home state go through hell this year. Love them Tigers.

UCLA - Is it possible that the Bruins are taking their rightful place among college basketball's elite again? True they haven't been really gone, but for the most storied college b'ball team of all time (sorry, they are, Indiana and UNC fans), it's great to see them back on top. Especially the way they did it. The Pac 10's soft, everyone said. They won two rounds. Gonzaga's going to eat them for lunch, people said. Adam Morrison and his porno moustache went home crying. But Memphis is great, they said. No. The Bruins are back.

Florida - Normally, I'm not a fan of the Florida schools, but if I had to choose one, it'd be these guys. Love the Gator nickname, love the toughness they showed all the way through the tourney. This is a team that knows its way around March Madness and it shows. Plus, how do you not like Joakim Noah's fro-tail?

George Mason - First, allow me to apologize to fans of the historically great programs that George Mason had to fight past to get here. This is a tiny little commuter school from the DC suburbs that didn't even exist 100 years ago, and this year, it smashed past Michigan State, North Carolina, Wichita State, and Connecticut to get here. How don't you love these guys? How don't you root for them to win it all in HOOSIERS fashion? How do you not like the fact that the school was apparently named in honor of a character on Our Man in LA's favorite TV show 24?

You can't not love em. Maybe the most interesting Final Four ever.

Thursday, March 23, 2006


A Special Weekly Bottom One . . . Or Two . . .

You know, I had my weekly Bottom One (formerly the Tuesday Bottom One, but I'm a little less than reliable about that) all picked out and ready to go. And then a new loser swooped in - literally swooped - and stole the prize from the story I had completed.

Who was that masked man, that champion of all things feeding from the bottom?

His name? Sheen. Charlie Sheen.

The hooker-loving son of Martin Sheen, who in the 80s seemed to be one of Hollywood's most promising young actors (WALL STREET, PLATOON) and who now stars on a sitcom playing in an infinite loop on American Airlines flights between Chicago and Los Angeles, decided to shoot his mouth off today. And believe you me, when a guy from Heidi Fleiss' little black book decides to shoot his mouth off, I listen. Boy, do I ever.

Yeah. Anyway, Charlie's decided that he's not at all satisfied with our government's description of the events that occurred on September 11, 2001. Nope. No, sir. So, after a few shots of Cuervo and a couple of lines of stunt powder from the prop room of the MIAMI VICE movie, he's apparently perused the 9/11 Conspiracy Theory web sites, and decided that our government is deluding us.

The long and the short of Charlie's thesis? Nineteen terrorists didn't get on four commercial jets with box cutters and whatnot. They didn't ram those planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon and the field in Pennsylvania.

Nope. Instead, those were planned demolitions, undertaken by the US GOV to give a "Pearl Harbor" moment to justify war in Afghanistan, and then war in Iraq.

Aw, hell. I can't do this justice on my own. Let's hear from Chuckie Sheen himself. Here he is on the ALEX JONES SHOW on GCN Radio Network. By the way, the show referred to Charlie as having "joined a growing army of other highly credible public figures in questioning the official story of 9/11 and calling for a new independent investigation of the attack and the circumstances surrounding it."

Heh. I'll leave that one alone. Too easy. Wouldn't feel good about it. I do, however, invite everyone to remember Charlie's movies TERMINAL VELOCITY, THE CHASE, and THE THREE MUSKETEERS (yes, the one with that obnoxious "All For Love" song by Sting, Brian Adams, and some other formerly cool rock star).

Sorry. Moving right along. Here's Charlie himself:

"It seems to me like 19 amateurs with box cutters taking over four commercial airliners and hitting 75% of their targets, that feels like a conspiracy theory. It raises a lot of questions."

And again:

"It feels like from the people I talk to in and around my circles, it seems like the worm is turning."

Uh huh. Whatever. The worm is turning. Serious discussion here. Here he is again:

"I was up early and we were gonna do a pre-shoot on Spin City, the show I used to do, I was watching the news and the north tower was burning. I saw the south tower hit live, that famous wide shot where it disappears behind the building and then we see the tremendous fireball.

"There was a feeling, it just didn't look any commercial jetliner I've flown on any time in my life and then when the buildings came down later on that day I said to my brother 'call me insane, but did it sorta look like those buildings came down in a controlled demolition'?"

As opposed to all those other buildings struck by planes that you've seen come down? Sorry. Taking this seriously. I'll let Alex Jones, host of the show, explain further:

Sheen said that most people's gut instinct, that the buildings had been deliberately imploded, was washed away by the incessant flood of the official version of events from day one.

Sheen questioned the plausibility of a fireballs traveling 1100 feet down an elevator shaft and causing damage to the lobbies of the towers as seen in video footage, especially when contrasted with eyewitness accounts of bombs and explosions in the basement levels of the buildings.

Regarding building 7, which wasn't hit by a plane, Sheen highlighted the use of the term "pull," a demolition industry term for pulling the outer walls of the building towards the center in an implosion, as was used by Larry Silverstein in a September 2002 PBS documentary when he said that the decision to "pull" building 7 was made before its collapse. This technique ensures the building collapses in its own footprint and can clearly be seen during the collapse of building 7 with the classic 'crimp' being visible.

The highly suspicious collapse of building 7 and the twin towers has previously been put under the spotlight by physics Professor Steven Jones and Kevin Ryan of Underwriters Laboratories, the company that certified the steel components used in the construction of the World Trade Center towers.

"The term 'pull' is as common to the demolition world as 'action and 'cut' are to the movie world," said Sheen.

Sheen referenced firefighters in the buildings who were eyewitnesses to demolition style implosions and bombs.

"This is not you or I watching the videos and speculating on what we saw, these are gentlemen inside the buildings at the very point of collapse.

"If there's a problem with building 7 then there's a problem with the whole thing," said Sheen.

OK, quick, let's have a show of hands. Who thinks that this will eventually culminate in some ludicrous Bush-centric conspiracy proven by the fact that our Prez continued to read to grade schoolers after hearing the First Tower had been hit?

Yeah, you're pretty much right. Sigh. Here we go.

Sheen then questioned President Bush's actions on 9/11 and his location at the Booker Elementary School in Florida. Once Andy Card had whispered to Bush that America was under attack why didn't the secret service immediately whisk Bush away to a secret location?

By remaining at a location where it was publicly known the President would be before 9/11, he was not only putting his own life in danger, but the lives of hundreds of schoolchildren. That is unless the government knew for sure what the targets were beforehand and that President Bush wasn't one of them.

"It seems to me that upon the revelation of that news that the secret service would grab the President as if he was on fire and remove him from that room," said Sheen.

The question of how Bush saw the first plane hit the north tower, when no live footage of that incident was carried, an assertion that Bush repeated twice, was also put under the spotlight.

"I guess one of the perks of being President is that you get access to TV channels that don't exist in the known universe," said Sheen.

"It might lead you to believe that he'd seen similar images in some type of rehearsal as it were, I don't know."

OK, look, I'm not going to keep going with this. It's already too long. It's already too ridiculous. There is more. He brings in the fact that we've never seen actual footage of the one plane striking the Pentagon. He calls 9/11 not the Zapruder Film, but the "Zapruder Film Festival." And so on.

It's exhausting really. If you must read more, here it is:

Our Man in LA honestly doesn't know quite how to react to all this. On the one hand, I'm tempted to suggest that Charlie stick to acting. On the other hand, then I would be forced to joke that such a move would require him to return to acting.

Now I grant you that just because Charlie is a sitcom star with a checkered background and no real expertise in the news or political arena, it doesn't mean that he's wrong about this. He might be right. Any number of celebrities could be right about what happened that day.

So come back tomorrow, we'll have the rest of the cast of TWO AND A HALF MEN on Our Man in LA to talk about their conspiracy theories re: 9/11. And next week, the cast and crew of YES, DEAR will discuss the Kennedy Assassination. Grassy knowl indeed!

Sigh. Yes, I'm kidding. But I guess if Charlie Sheen's onto something, you never know.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006


Staying indoors for the latest Tuesday Top Five

It's been a couple of weeks since the last Tuesday Top Five, and a couple more on top of that since it actually got done on time. As usual, Our Man in LA carries no convenient excuse along with him. Sure, there's the new job. Sure, the weather's been a little bit on the crappy side.

No excuse. The bottom line is that it's time for me to deliver. So here you have it, a real, live, on-time Tuesday Top Five. Let's do it right for a change. I haven't been out and about like usual this week, so consider this the Tuesday Top Five: Home Edition.

Without further ado . . .

5) The Daruma Wish Doll. Last night, Our Man in LA faced his last ever board meeting at the day job. As of April 6, I vacate the LA office of the Alzheimer's Association after five years with the group both here and back in Chicago. Since coming to LA, I've had a lot of interaction with Board members, cultivating them and their closest friends and family to, well, give us more money.

Basically, I'm the money-grubbing pest. As such, Board members last night punctuated just about every bit of new business with jokes about "the late Chris" and whatnot. But at the end, they did chip in and give me a gift - the aforementioned Daruma wish doll.

You can read about them here:

Here's the skinny. You take one of these red papier mache dolls, and you fill in one of its eyes in ink. You make a wish as you do it. For a year, the doll stands there as a monument to your wish, and it keeps you going. You get a bunch of good Buddha karma for the thing you seek to do.

When you achieve your wish, you fill in the other eye. Some folks say you should discard it then, or burn it. We'll see.

Nice gift. It never hurts to have something tangible to remind you of what you really want. And of course, it never hurts to have good Buddha karma for anything.

4) DC Comics: One Year Later. As I may have mentioned in the last couple of months, DC Comics began a massive crossover promotion with all of its mainstream super-hero characters this month, coming on the heels of its INFINITE CRISIS series.

Basically, the whole DC Universe - home of Superman, Batman and a host of others - jumped ahead one year in time. Since we last left our heroes, major changes have greeted our favorite heroes and villains. There's a new status quo in Gotham City. A companion series, called 52, will be coming out in the next month or so, spilling the tale of the lost year in a real time, week by week format. Hence the name 52.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I know. Whenever big comic book companies suggest that big changes are afoot, well, they're usually lying. Superman didn't really die, did he? Or at least, he got better faster than a knight in a Monty Python flick. Even that Robin who died back in the 80s, the one you could phone in and save or kill? He's totally back in the saddle.

So it's good to be skeptical about these things. But so far, the One Year Later titles have given really strong comics writers the opportunity to start fresh with old standby characters. The status quo really is changed - for now.

How so? Some of the changes are minor, others a lot stronger. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman - not to mention their friends and colleagues - have been missing for most of the year. When we open in Metropolis, Clark Kent is apparently human now - with no super-powers. Supergirl is saving the day.

Catwoman's a mom, giving birth to a baby girl. Oliver Queen, aka Green Arrow, is now the mayor of his hometown of Star City (which I guess is sort of like Seattle, but I'm not sure). Black Canary has apparently gone rogue. Robin is wanted for murder. Someone took Nightwing's identity and started killing criminals, so the real guy is trying to clear his name. Hawkman's gone, but Hawkgirl's picked up the slack.

It's cool stuff, with really good storytelling. A good jumping on point for the casual fan. So good, in fact, that mainstream publications like ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY are reviewing the books. Check out those reviews here:,6115,1173521_5_0_,00.html.

3) Television Dramas. Seriously, I'm not getting out enough.

Why? Because too many good TV shows fill my evening hours these days. You already know about my obsessions on this front - 24, THE OFFICE, MY NAME IS EARL, and the lethal narcotic known as LOST. Now, with THE SOPRANOS back in business, I really can't think of a good reason to leave home at night. What am I going to do instead? Go to a movie? Go see ULTRAVIOLET?

Dude, seriously.

Loved the first episode of THE SOPRANOS. Maybe one of the top five of all time, in my opinion. No two ways about it. I figured that they couldn't recapture the gut punch power they used to have. I expected a show bloated by ego, limping into its final days. Then Tony took a shot from his uncle, and I found myself hooked again.

Sunday's episode fell short of the opener, but mostly because of the bad, bad acting of the kid playing AJ Soprano. Seriously, can't somebody whack him? Put him out of my misery. AJ's lack of performance served as enough reason for Our Woman in LA to call the episode a suck-fest.

Not so, I countered. Edie Falco's Carmela came out swinging in her performance - really great work. And the scenes between Tony's lieutenants, vying with one another for power should Tony not pull through, well, it reminded me of something out of Shakespeare. And Tony himself, trapped in the delusions of coma, put together a very different and interesting perspective on how the mob boss feels about himself, and about the life he's leading now.

I dug it. The Father-in-Law elected to wait on SOPRANOS this season. He'll record the first three on TIVO, wait for the review out of LA, and then decide whether to watch. He's trying to catch up on five years of 24. And given the choice, I'd still take the Kiefer Sutherland torturefest, too.

But Tony and the rest are back. So there's no reason to go outside at all.

2) Especially when you have books to fill the other hours like Michael Lark's powerful graphic novel adaptation of Raymond Chandler's THE LITTLE SISTER.

Our Man in LA has a theory about Chandler. Basically, it's the same as his theory about Woody Allen. It goes like this. Everyone knows the really important works by these artists. We've seen them or read them, we can talk intelligently about them. But because they're so "important", they're basically disqualified from being our favorites. The ones that are our favorite pertain to our individual tastes, or to the times and places we first encountered them.

For example, if you ask someone their favorite Woody Allen film, and they say ANNIE HALL or MANHATTAN, they're posing. Not true. Those are the most important ones, sure. That's the answer they're supposed to give, sure. But that's not true. Same with anyone who says that really, seriously, CITIZEN KANE is their favorite movie ever.

No, really, it's not. It's number one in all those lists, and it's really important. But it's not your favorite.

Chandler's the same way. Everyone knows THE BIG SLEEP. Great book. Important book. But it shouldn't be your favorite. Almost can't be.

For me, my fave Chandler is either FAREWELL, MY LOVELY or THE LITTLE SISTER. Maybe they're lesser works, but they resonate with me. Part of it's the way they become such personal stories for Marlowe - he sees his loneliness reflected in the star-crossed romance of Velda and Moose Malloy; he doubts his own origins and reason for being as he follows the path that Orfamy Quest has set for him.

Part of it is that I read these for the first time back in junior high, when I first got the detective story jones.

Anyway, Lark apparently loves THE LITTLE SISTER, too. His art and adaptation are beautiful. They bring out the moodiness and violence of the era. He cuts through the existential fog that Marlowe takes with him all over 1940s Los Angeles.

If you like the detective story, check this one out.

1) NCAA Tournament. My buddy Rick called last weekend "the best weekend of the year." I consider myself more of a football fan than basketball fan, but I can't really disagree with him. What could possibly be better than a full weekend of back to back to back college games, full of drama and sudden elimination? Every year, high drama greets the tournament - every bit as exciting as the DC Universe or Marlowe's L.A. Who doesn't love the emergence of the mid-major underdogs, putting away the big boys of college sports?

As always, it's incredible, I tell you.

I could go on and on, without much in the way of specifics. But what good would that do? So instead, I've made some notes on specific things that occurred to me over this first, great weekend:

A) Did I say that the Pac 10 sucked? Oh, ho ho no! What I MEANT to say is that the Big Ten sucks. Sucks bad. No teams in the Sweet 16. None. Iowa lost to Northwestern State (which I think is in Louisiana) IN THE FIRST ROUND! And how bad, seriously, does an Ohio State team have to be to lose by 18 points to a middle of the pack Big East team in Our Man in LA's hometown of Dayton?? That's basically a home game! OSU gridiron and hoops are the most popular things in the Buckeye state. Incredible. Just incredible. Put a bag over your heads, Big Ten fans (of which, I am one).

B) Hang tough, Mighty Mighty Longhorns. It's been a great year, and Duke looms in the round of eight - if we make it. Hook em, Horns.

C) Congrats to UCLA for looking like champs all through these first two rounds. I figured the Bruins for paper tigers. Is it possible that we're seeing the rebirth of one of the all-time great programs? Is it possible that LA sports fans will go back to rooting for the Trojans during football season and the Bruins during basketball season?

D) Why on Earth - ON EARTH - are the folks at Indiana University (alma mater of my mom and just about everyone in her entire family) still considering Steve Alford to replace Mike Davis as head coach? Seriously. IU's one of the most important college b'ball programs historically, and they're considering replacing their coach who made it to the round of 32 with a guy who fell in the first round? To Northwestern State?

Look, IU fan, I know you loved Bobby Knight. I understand. But give up the ghost. And give up on Alford, who may have been Knight's finest player, but just isn't that amazing as a coach. So many mid-major tyros exist out there. Call the guy from George Mason, who just knocked off Michigan State and UNC. I bet you can match his salary. Or how about the cat from Bradley. Bradley's in Indianapolis, so I imagine he knows how to recruit the Hoosier State. And the last Bradley coach to move to the Big Ten (Ohio State's Thad Matta) just won the conference in this, his second year. Crappy year, I'll grant you, but he still won.

There's precedent here. Illinois grabs Coach Weber out of Southern Illinois, and they go to the Championship Game last year. Ohio State grabs Matta, and they win the Big Ten. Grab a guy that's hungry, Hoosiers.

Or look at the other side. North Carolina picks up recent grad Matt Doherty, fresh off big program Notre Dame, and it all falls apart. Kansas grabs at Bill Self from Illinois, and two years in a row they bow out early in the tournament.

The hated Mike Davis got you to one championship, and past the first round in the tourney in another year. It's a five-year stretch that beats Knight's last decade at Indiana. Don't trade down for Alford.

E) In the meantime, do you think Mike Davis has any interest in coaching Our Man in LA's other alma mater the not so Mighty Mighty Wildcats of Northwestern? A tournament appearance would be a welcome change for the program at this point. NU hosted the first tournament back in the day, but our team has never made an appearance.

So Mike, how do you feel about a beautiful campus right on the edge of a major metro area? I know you got criticized for poor recruiting at IU, but at this point, I think Wildcat fans would welcome ANY recruiting.

Mull it over, buddy. We'll be over here, close to the bottom of the Big Ten. You know, the conference with zero teams among the Sweet 16.

See y'all tomorrow.

Monday, March 20, 2006


Movin' On Up . . .

Just like George and Weezie, circumstances have changed for the better in the House of Wieland out here in LA. It's made for a hectic week, and in a second, you'll understand why I've been so far behind on the blog posting.

Basically, it comes down to this. Last Thursday, both the wife and I gave notice at our employers. We're both taking new gigs in the weeks ahead, changing the complexion of the daytime hours out here for each of us.

I'll start with Our Woman in LA. As Steph informed her employer last week, she'll be going full-time with her theatre company beginning this summer. It's the first time in her career that Steph's been a full time theatre director. No going back to sales and marketing or any of that. Couldn't be more proud of her.

As always, you can check out the theatre company at

Then there's me. In April, I start with the YMCA of the USA, running their fund raising and development programs for the Jerusalem International Y in Israel. It's basically the only place in Israel where Christians, Muslims, and Jews can assemble peacefully. They have multi-cultural preschools and youth leadership programs. Really cool, and, you know, part of that whole Middle East peace process.

As a day job, doing fund raising and development for nonprofit organizations is actually pretty fulfilling. Sure, if I had my druthers, I'd be writing all day, but if I've got to be doing the daytime employment, this is a great way to make a living. I'm really looking forward to working with the Y. They're going beyond just building pools and gyms. The mission of Jerusalem International Y involves building a new generation in Israel that can live in peace. Pretty cool.

With the new job, I'll be based in LA, and work out of a home office most of the time. Have to go to Chicago once a month (YMCA HQ is there), and then go to Israel once or twice a year. Really excited about it. Good opportunity, better pay, and best of all, because of my new hours (8 to 4), I'll get more quality writing time during the day.

By the way, the writing's going pretty well these days. Still working with the manager, editing two scripts, getting them ready to go on the market. By the end of the year, I'll have at least a couple more in one stage of rewrite or another.

Look, I know it's not every day that Our Man in LA goes all "Christmas Letter" on you readers and gives you a summary of what we've been doing all year. But occasionally, you have weeks like this one. In most cases, when you tell people that both you and your spouse quit your jobs in one week, it sounds like there's a need for Alka Seltzer in the water.

Not this time. This is another step closer to the reason we came out here.

So good news from your friends out in cold and hazy LA (high in the 50s today). We'll get back to the regular snark of the blog tomorrow. In the meantime, as I'm sure George Jefferson would report, the air smells better, the food tastes better, and all is well in SoCal.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006


Two high profile names make it to our belated Tuesday Bottom One

We have two early applicant's for Our Man in LA's FIRST ANNUAL MEGA-HYPOCRISY AWARD in today's Tuesday Bottom One. This award, conceived of by me in the last fifteen or twenty minutes, celebrates the greatest yahoo in the world, who cries foul about something no matter how bountiful his or her harvest may be, or who throws stones around the glass house just to see how it'll turn out.

Normally, this kind of award goes to American heads of state, activists against things like Starbuck's, and other malignant tumors on society.

Today it goes to two people in the entertainment field, two people I actually respected until maybe yesterday.

Candidate Number One is well-regarded writer Annie Proulx, who wrote the short story that served as the basis for the Oscar-nominated film BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN.

As you may have heard, BROKEBACK got loads of acclaim, and it won Oscars for Best Director, Best Score, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Not too shabby. It did lose in the Acting Categories and for Best Picture. About a week ago, I suggested that I was bummed out about it, sorry that it didn't sweep because I do believe that it was the Best Picture of 2005.

But now I'm glad it lost.

That's because bitchy, whiny Proulx decided to write a column in London's GUARDIAN newspaper deriding Hollywood, America, the world, and just about everyone else because of the loss. She also went out of her way to lambaste the movie that did win best picture, CRASH (which she called "TRASH").

Now I didn't think CRASH was best, either, but the Oscars are subjective, right? There are people out there who don't agree with me (hard to believe but true), and they're entitled to their opinion. And there was a vote, right?

I don't want to support Proulx and her shamelessly despicable write-up by going back over it here, except to say this. She ends her remarks in the GUARDIAN with this statement:

"For those who call this little piece a Sour Grapes Rant, play it as it lays."

Uh, well, shucks, Annie, how would you "play" it? How about as sophomoric and stupid, disingenuous and below a writer of your stature. Wouldn't you characterize berating an organization that didn't give you its top prize but did give you and your pals three other ones as a little childish? Sort of like the behavior of a junior high school boy or girl? Pretty much the opposite of gracious and professional.

But that's cool, Annie. Take your toys and go home. And by the way, how much money did you make from all the hype and everything surrounding BROKEBACK? A bunch, I bet. Sorry you couldn't top it all by getting onstage (or having someone do it for you) to prove, Sally Field-style that we like you, we really, really like you.

After this pathetic display, Annie. Forget it. We don't like you at all. We like Ang Lee's beautiful movie. Ahem, I'm sorry. I meant Oscar winner Ang Lee's beautiful movie.

Heh. That has a great sound to it, doesn't it? Oh yeah, and Viva Crash.

If you want to read Proulx's stupid, bile-filled tirade, it's here:,,1727312,00.html

Play IT as it lays.

Whew. Onto candidate number two.

It pains me to say this, but Candidate Number Two is none other than Isaac Hayes, whom Our Man in LA has loved since college, when he and his roommates created a voicemail message to the tune of Hayes' brilliant theme from the movie SHAFT.

As you might know, Hayes has spent the last few years as the voice of the character Chef on the Comedy Central mega-hit SOUTH PARK. He's been hilarious on the show, crooning amazing and funny songs, not to mention serving as a "straight man" character for the otherwise-crazed residents of the animated Colorado town.

Until the other day, that is.

You see, Hayes quit the show this week citing the show's "inappropriate ridicule" of religion.

I haven't been a big SOUTH PARK watcher over the last few years. It's a single guy show much more than a married guy show, and it conflicts with my LOST addiction. But I do still love it and value its originality, satire, and "take no prisoners" attitude with American culture. When I watch it, I stand amazed at the number of "I can't believe they just did that" moments that the show delivers.

Moreover, the SOUTH PARK feature film is one of the funniest and best movies of the last decade, bar none. And most insightful, but who's counting? It's a shame Annie Proulx didn't write anything about it. Sorry, digressing.

Back to Hayes. One thing that we all know about SOUTH PARK is that nobody's safe. They make fun of Christians, Jews, Muslims, and every other religion. The right wing's not safe, the left wing's not safe, Hollywood's not safe. Nobody's safe. You would have thought that Hayes, who's certainly read some of their scripts, would know that.

Apparently not. Last year, the show went too far for Hayes by lampooning scientology. And Hayes is a scientologist. You know, like Cruise and Travolta, who also make boffo decisions.

In the episode, CNN reports "one of the gang, Stan, scores so high on a Scientology test that church followers think he is the next L. Ron Hubbard, the late science-fiction writer who founded the religion."

OK, first of all, that's pretty freaking funny. But Hayes doesn't think so.

He told CNN: "the show's parody of religion in general was part of what he saw as a 'growing insensitivity toward personal spiritual beliefs' in the media, including the recent controversy over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad.

"'There is a place in this world for satire, but there is a time when satire ends and intolerance and bigotry toward religious beliefs ... begins,' Hayes said."

Hmmm. What show's he been watching and, ahem, receiving checks from for 10 YEARS??

I could keep going on this subject forever and ever, but I don't think there's anything I could say that Matt Stone, co-creator of SOUTH PARK, said already. In his statement about Hayes quitting, he said:

"In ten years and over 150 episodes of 'South Park,' Isaac never had a problem with the show making fun of Christians, Muslim, Mormons or Jews. He got a sudden case of religious sensitivity when it was his religion featured on the show. Of course we will release Isaac from his contract, and we wish him well."

Bravo, Matt.

Am I alone in thinking this will make a great SOUTH PARK episode next year?


Winning the Sports Minutiae Battle

One of the columnists over at FoxSports released a list of his College Hoops and Helmets rankings for the past year. Basically, it ranks Division I universities, taking into account how they did in both of the major income sports for the 2005-06 school year.

I'm not one to gloat, especially not over something that doesn't really matter, but . . . oh, to hell with it. I'm gloating. Two of Our Man in LA's fave college sports programs - Texas and Ohio State - cleaned up in the rankings, coming in as #1 and #2.

Probably it's not surprising. Both are 2 seeds in the NCAA tourney beginning Thursday. Both had pretty big deal BCS bowl wins in January.

But it's nice to see them coming in ahead of hated rivals. You know, like Oklahoma, Florida State, folks like this.

Check out the list here. Argue if you will.

And by the way, undergrad alma mater Northwestern did OK, too, ranking 37 out of possible 119. And UCLA, home to Doc Noel (and the Professional Screenwriting Program that I attended last year) came in 4th.

I know it means nothing. But the air does seem a little fresher today.

Monday, March 13, 2006


Happy Monday . . . Unless you're on Skid Row

Hope everyone had a nice weekend. Our Woman and LA had a great one together - saw a buddy perform a sketch comedy show in Hollywood, hung out a little in Pasadena (home of the LA area's first H&M store, opening soon), watched a great Sopranos episode, and cheered our teams making it to the NCAA tourney.

Actually, I did the cheering. And not all of our teams made it - DePaul (where the wife attended college) isn't in, and neither is Northwestern, Our Man in LA's undergraduate alma mater and the only school from a major athletic conference to never make it to the Big Dance. Don't even get me started on Northwestern b'ball. We hosted the first NCAA tourney in Evanston, but we've never made it.

Sigh. At least I can be happy for the Buckeyes and the Mighty Mighty Longhorns.

But that's really not what I wanted to talk about today. Another thing that happened over the weekend involved me catching up on current events and learning about this little tidbit. You can read it here:,1,5185702.story

It seems that the LAPD currently is considering two proposals for "cleaning up" LA's infamous Skid Row neighborhood in downtown. The first - not to mention the smarter - was proposed by Asst. Chief George Gascon, who seems to have his head in the right place, even if everything isn't completely thought through. Gascon argues that the problems in Skid Row are caused primarily by the abject poverty in which the area's residents live. He suggests a plan that would clear away the tent cities, and find methods to get LA's homeless people into housing and receiving the services that they need to live independently.

In the other corner, weighing in at 200 pounds of stupid and right wing, is George Kelling, a Rutgers criminologist who along with co-authors, developed the "broken windows" theory of neighborhood improvement. According to the LA Times (who will explain it better than I will, and with fewer expletives): "The theory holds that punishing lesser offenses leads to reductions in major crimes. Kelling argues that rather than removing homeless people wholesale from the streets, the LAPD should focus on criminals, including drug dealers and prostitutes, who he says create a 'culture of lawlessness' in the area."

The "Broken Windows" approach is simpler than Gascon's plan. Much simpler, and much more short-sighted, and so of course, Our Man in LA has every faith that plenty of people will see it as a wise course of action.

Because, look. If you can get the drug dealers and drug users and hookers off the street, then you won't have to look at them when you drive past on your way to the Staples Center (Go Clippers!). And then you'll think that the problem is solved, and as long as it's out of sight, it'll be out of mind, and the world will be better.


As Jules from PULP FICTION might say, "Well, then, allow me to retort."

There are only a few thousand holes in this theory. I'll just poke the really big ones.

1) We have a prison overcrowding problem in this country to begin with. Want to know why? In large part it's because of the large scale jailing of people for drug-related crimes (primarily possession). If you were to count the number of people incarcerated for drug-related offenses from sea to shining sea . . . you'd have a lot. How many? Well, do this for me. Imagine the populations of a few of our large and mid-sized American cities. See if you can imagine the population of Miami, Cincinnati, Des Moines, St. Louis, San Antonio, and Atlanta.

Now imagine them all in orange prison jumpsuits. There. Roughly that's the number of prisoners in there for these minor, drug-related offenses.

And that leads us to issue #2.

2) Which is, that drug abuse, whether it's legal or not, isn't really stopped with incarceration. Drug abuse is rampant in our nation's prisons. The only better-than-even shot most people with an addiction problem have at getting clean is through recovery support. That includes 12-step programs, social work, and the like.

But since there are six or seven major cities worth of junkies in the joint, there is, as you might suspect, a pretty long waiting list to get into programs like this behind bars. So addicts are untreated, and then parolled, and then they go back to the life of getting high.

3) Oh yeah, did I mention how really very hard it is out there to get a job if you've spent time in the pen? Yeah, it's pretty difficult. If you've ever filled out a job application, you've seen the section where they want to know if you've committed a felony. By the way, possession often is a felony (it varies state by state, but you get the idea). Pretty hard to move into that data entry gig and make that $25K a year so you can "pull yourself up by the bootstraps" if you've committed a crime.

That is, of course, if you've actually got job training or job skills, which you probably haven't. Because it's hard to get into those programs in overcrowded prisons, too. And the high schools in neighborhoods like Skid Row aren't so grand to begin with.

But at least - WHEW! - you don't have to live in a neighborhood with broken windows.

That's not a problem unless . . .

4) Oh right! You can't usually rent an apartment in a decent neighborhood without a background check, either, can you? So the chances of you living somewhere where the drug addicts and drug dealers aren't hanging out is pretty slim, too.

I could keep poking holes, but I figure you're getting the picture.

The bottom line is this. Neighborhoods like Skid Row are awash in crime and drugs and poverty for a reason. Arresting all the people involved in drug-related crimes won't do the job. What the city needs is a comprehensive approach that addresses the underlying causes of homelessness and poverty, and amps up programs to make sure that those causes are mitigated.

What do I mean?

Basically this. Los Angeles - and all the big cities in the USA - need to start over with a holistic approach to these problems. First, there needs to be safe, clean, and inexpensive housing available (perhaps with local or state government subsidies) for people who are homeless or at extreme risk of becoming homeless. Yes, for the law and order types, you can have a no tolerance policy. You deal drugs in one of these buildings, or pimp someone out, you get thrown out. Fine.

But the reason you can have that no tolerance policy is that you have support services on sight for those homeless and formerly homeless people, so that they can get the skills and support they need. You can get them into recovery support, so that they can get and stay clean. You can teach them how to manage their money, cook their meals, maintain a home.

And yeah, you can give them access to educational programs and job training. Give them a way to move up the ladder. Few people want to live in poverty. Few people want to commit crimes to survive or to feed an addiction. But they need a way out.

And sorry, Dr. Kelling, a prison isn't a way out. It's just a trip away from crime and poverty and addiction. A trip that's usually followed by a trip back.

The easy way out doesn't get you anywhere with Skid Row. You have to concentrate your efforts, take the long view. But it has to be something that a city, a state, and its people invest in, over the long haul.

It's great that a "broken windows" approach can reduce violent crime in big cities. That is, until you learn that a larger, longer and possibly more violent crime is being perpetrated against citizens because they've been unfortunate enough to be poor, addicted, and at the end of their rope.

If we're going to clean up Skid Row or any other place, let's actually get under the dirt. Let's deal with the problem. Covering it up, moving it around, it all only looks better for a moment.

Friday, March 10, 2006


And another thing about Vince Young

I know that Our Man in LA has harped so much on the Vince Young haters out there that we might as well call this blog "Our Man who likes Vince Young". But I can't stay away from any and all stories related to this issue.

Which brings me to today's latest weirdness. I perused The, one of the funniest sites out there, and I came across its take on the Vince Young issue. Here it is:

So if you've read it, you're wondering what my point is, right? Bear with me.

Because this is USA Today's take:

This is the Houston Chronicle's take:

And this report belongs to the Sporting News:

If you've got a minute, read all of them. Maybe I'm wrong, but I wouldn't be able to take the Pepsi Challenge with these stories, and tell you which one belongs to the humor publication, and which ones are legitimate. Maybe you could. But if you can, let me know how.


A Very Late Tuesday Top Five

OK, so now we're starting to get caught up, aren't we? Folks, you've read the headline, and so you know what's coming next. Why should I prolong your suffering just to hear myself type?

Away we go with a late, but hopefully fair-to-middling Tuesday Top Five:

5) JUSTICE LEAGUE UNLIMITED. We're going to have a couple of comics-related items today, and I sorry for that if it's just not your thing. But this show, brought to you by the folks who produced the Batman and Superman animated series, is in high gear right now, and it's just about as great as you can imagine. Now in its final season on Cartoon Network, the writers have told most of the great, important super hero stories, and now they're having fun with their characters.

Case in point, last Saturday's episode "The Great Brain Robbery". Through a confluence of events almost taken from a THREE'S COMPANY episode, the Flash (a good guy prone to telling jokes and hitting on women) switches brains with Lex Luthor (a megalomaniac super-villain who you've probably heard of). Then wackiness ensues.

What kind of wackiness? Both Lex and Flash know they're dead if anyone figures out they've switched bodies. So they have to keep mum. The jokes abound. The moment when Lex decides to learn Flash's secret ID, pulls off the mask, and doesn't recognize the red-headed kid staring back at him. How about Flash as Lex having a confrontation with Dr. Polaris in the Legion of Doom men's room. All very, very funny.

Check your local listings.

4) Wild Flour Pizza on Main Street in Santa Monica. Coming from Chicago, and having spent a good deal of time in New York over the years, it's pretty clear to me LA is not much of a pizza town. Or so I thought. I had occasion this past weekend to try some of the wares at Wild Flour, which lies in the midst of the ultra-quaint Main Street drag. Good stuff.

It's even sort of its own invention, taking a little bit from both the Chicago and New York traditions. Liked the sweeter sauce and the bready end crust, but it was nice to have the slice crispy throughout. More to the point, Wild Flour does what most pizza places in LA doesn't do - it creates a pizza experience, something you don't just get at your local Papa John's.

You walk in to the dark, wood-panelled, sawdust on the floor counter, and you order your pie. There's about six tables inside and a few out on the dark patio. That's how pizza places are supposed to be - dark, all-business, and not pre-fabbed like they're part of a chain.

I hadn't found a pizza I really dug till we ventured to this little spot. But I'll be back.

3) AMERICAN SPLENDOR by Harvey Pekar. Another no-brainer on the comics front today. I hadn't read any of this for a good long time, since well before the movie. But a few weeks ago, I couldn't resist picking it up again with the new "Best of American Splendor" edition.

Put simply, Pekar's amazing. The pathos, the grumbling, and especially the hope that he displays as he - and his pen and ink self - trudge through normal life and its indignities . . . well, it's all really affecting. I heard someone say not too long ago that real life is like the strangest, greatest novel of all time - filled with symbolism, coincidence, foreshadowing, conflict, remarkable characters, and all you could ever want from reading. The problem with real life, the person said, is that it comes with no real hook, other than it belongs to you.

That seems like a good way to summarize Harvey and his work. There's no particular concept or hook to what he does. And yet it's fascinating. It doesn't take itself too seriously, force its perspective too hard. It's just the experience of one man who's occasionally miserable, occasionally happy, and deluged as we all are with the moments that normally happen between the panels of the comic book or cartoon strip.

2) THE BIG KNOCKOVER by Dashiell Hammett. Longtime readers know that I'm a huge fan of detective lit, and that pretty much all American detective lit comes from Hammett. So little by little, I've been working my way through all of the man's work. I've hit THE MALTESE FALCON, THE THIN MAN, and THE GLASS KEY about a gajillion times. So I've moved on to his short stories.

This book features a mix - some of his earliest work stirred in with some later work that he never quite finished. But they all feature one of his lesser-known heroes (albeit the one he wrote the most about): The Continental Op. If you're a Hammett fan, you know that prior to practically inventing the hard-boiled American detective novel, he was himself a private eye with the Pinkerton Agency. He investigated for the agency in Philly and Baltimore, in Montana and Arizona, and for the longest time in San Francisco (setting for most of his stories).

The Op allegedly was based on one of his colleagues, and he's not exactly the kind of leading man we think of in detective stories. He's not tall, he's not thin, he's not young. But he is tough and very smart. He's been around the block so many times that virtually no lie or story gets past him. We never learn his name, or much about his background, but through his eyes and feelings we come to find a personal connection to each of the crimes he describes.

Good stories abound in this volume. THAT KING BUSINESS probably ranks as my favorite, but I also like CORKSCREW, which is almost a western, and the unfinished TULIP. Whatever your tastes, if you like mysteries and detective fiction, this is some of the best quick hit material of all time.

1) NCAA BASKETBALL. There's a lot to celebrate about the upcoming weekend. The Sopranos are back, it might snow in LA for the first time since the 50s . . .

But nothing outranks "Selection Sunday". Sixty-five teams - theoretically the best in college basketball - will be playing in the best sporting tournament of all time, for the greatest prize in the sport. Sorry, NBA championship, March Madness is just better.

It's a great year to be Our Man in LA watching the games, I should mention. Some of the hated rivals - the Duke Blue Devils, for example, apparently peaked too soon. Coach K's boys are hobbling into the post-season, and we can all just hope that they don't figure out how to turn things back on.

Two of Our Man in LA's favorite teams are likely to be pretty high seeds. Most of the projections I've seen have the Ohio State Buckeyes and the Mighty Mighty Texas Longhorns both as two seeds, which is a pretty good way to start a tournament. What more could I ask for? This is where it starts to get fun.

Thanks for bearing with me on the lateness of all this. Talk later.


A much-belated Tuesday Bottom One

Crikey, Our Man in LA writes a lot on these catch-up days.

As I said in the last post, yes, I know it's Friday. But the day job got pretty hectic this week - we had our Big Celebrity Event at the Beverly Hills Hilton on Wednesday, and it put the daily blogging further down the list. Sorry, sorry, sorry.

But that doesn't mean I'm shirking my responsibilities. Nope. Here, even on Friday, is the Tuesday Bottom One:

1) The Death of Edgar Stiles. Edgar, the beloved sidekick of personality-challenged wiseacre Chloe O'Brien on 24, bit it and joined that 24 Cast Party in Sky. He was exposed to nerve gas that terrorists piped in to the CTU headquarters, and before our very eyes, fell to the ground while Jack and Chloe watched in horror.

Our Woman in LA found herself particularly incensed. Edgar was one of her favorites, she said. Why'd they have to kill him? He was nice, and cool, and we liked him. And there are sooo many other characters whom we could do without.

I won't list all the better deaths here, but I don't disagree. And probably, that's why Edgar went down. Because we all liked him and would feel remorse about his passing, something that wouldn't happen with, say, Jack's girlfriend Audrey or Sean Astin's jagoff character.

As she went to bed that night, Our Woman in LA considered dropping 24 from her TV rotation, the same way I often consider dropping LOST from mine. And, as I've suggested, the way many junkies often consider dropping the black tar smack from their daily routine.

Alas. We're addicted. But bummed about Edgar. He'll be missed.


Our Man in LA has at least four LA things

Or at least that's the hope.

The other day, my buddy Rick Porter (known throughout the Midwest as "The Condor") enlisted me in a sort of blog chain letter created by the folks at the well-regarded LA blog FRANKLIN AVENUE (

As Rick explains at his own blog, which you can find here (, it's a chance to ruminate on all things LA, one's experience of the City of Angels.

Cool. I'm a gamer.

Before I start, though, one note. Just because I'm chain lettering about on the blog today doesn't mean that there's none of the regular "Our Man in LA" wackiness coming your way. No, sir. The Tuesday Top Five and Bottom One are on their way, as are other pieces of mirth and discussion. I fully admit to being behind schedule, which those of you who know me will suggest is my natural state.

Anyway, let's ruminate, LA-style:


I've had only one day job since moving here 18 months ago, and that's Director of Corporate Relations for the Los Angeles office of the Alzheimer's Association. Basically, I manage all of the relationships the Association has with corporations based on the West Coast. I also spend a good deal of time working with Big Pharma and other large international concerns that are looking to support Alzheimer-related programs and events in Southern California.

By night, of course Our Man in LA toils at the keyboard on screenplays and novels.


* LA CONFIDENTIAL. An amazing, brilliant look at the layers upon layers of the onion that is Los Angeles. Yes, it should have been the best picture that year. It would be the best picture most years. And I don't think any other film captures so well the time when LA was transforming from the self-contained basin town it had been to the freeway culture megalopolis it is today.

* COLLATERAL. It came out right when I got here, and I love the performances by Foxx and yes, even Cruise. More than that, I love how Michael Mann abandons the idea of cinematic geography for the most part. Don't you usually hate the way a movie shot in your favorite town will have a scene where two characters are talking on a street, and you'll know exactly where they are, only to see them turn a corner, and YOU KNOW they're sixteen miles away? I do. In RISKY BUSINESS, Tom Cruise goes from the Drake to Highland Park in less than a minute. Not here.

* HEAT. OK, I have a thing for crime movies, and Michael Mann. But there's something poetic about this story about cop and killer both at the ends of their individual ropes on the edge of the American continent. Beautiful to look at and riveting. When DeNiro tells Pacino at the end, "I told you I was never going back" as the plane screams overhead, you feel the moment right in the sternum.

* BLADE RUNNER. I tried to think of a comedy about LA that I liked better than this. I love LA Story, but this is even more a part of my personal psyche and experience, so I had to put it up. An LA of the future that seems strikingly close to the one we have now, the great use of downtown's Bradbury building, the reversal of hunter and hunted with Rutger Hauer and Harrison Ford, the long discussions through college about whether Decker's a replicant or not. It's all good.


* Los Feliz, which has sooo many. The Bruschetta at Farfalla, the beef burritos at Yucca's and the seafood enchiladas at Mexico City. The spicy tuna rolls as big as your face at Niko Niko. The Thai Cobb salad at Fred 62. The rosemary turkey burger at Mustard Seed. I could go on.

* Palms/Culver City. Tito's Tacos. Great appetizers at the Beacon. Thai carry-out from Pam's Place and Natalee. Amazing Empanadas from the Empanada Palace.

Those are the only two places I've lived in LA, though when I used to stay with Doc Noel in West LA, I loved the late, lamented Lula's Blue Plate on Sawtelle, with its omelettes and fried twinkies.


* 24. Still my fave show on TV. I'm still trying to figure out where CTU's HQ is.

* ENTOURAGE. I didn't want to like the show, but damn if Piven and the other boys aren't funny as hell.

* CITY OF ANGELS. An oldie but a goodie. Who knew Wayne Rogers could be cool? Imagine CHINATOWN as a TV show, and you have it.

* (tie) THREE'S COMPANY and 90210. Hated myself every entertaining minute, but I kept watching.


* Griffith Park. I can walk there from home, and I'm not much of a camper, but I could spend days there.

* One of those oceanfront villas in Malibu. Getting away, watching the surf crash into the sand. That'd be decent.

* Renaissance Hotel, Hollywood and Highland. Stupid, simpering and cheesy on my part, I'll grant you, but I have to put it down. When you live in a place, you forget about all the touristy stuff that's actually fun. If I picked four places to stay in New York, I'd want one to be near Times Square. And this is LA's Times Square.

* (tie) Shutters on the Beach in Santa Monica; a bungalow at the Beverly Hills Hotel; or Chateau Marmont. I just can't make up my mind.




* Citysearch LA

* Our Woman in LA loves something called "Daily Candy LA". I have a feeling that's slightly more interesting than my "Citysearch" choice.


* A double cheeseburger, fries and vanilla coke at In n Out Burger.

* A combo plate of Mexican food at El Cholo.

* Grilled lobster at, well, The Lobster.

* Just about anything at Farfalla or Mexico City.


It's almost noon on Friday, so:

* Taking a drive north on PCH with Our Woman in LA.

* Spending the day at the Arclight or Mann's Chinese, catching up on my movies, also with the wife.

* Hiking through Griffith Park, taking in the view.

* Walking the boardwalk in Venice with Our Woman in LA, catching the pickup basketball, checking out the people and the tacky souvenir shops.

It is customary to pass this thing on, but I don't have a ton of LA bloggers on my mailing list. I promise to invite in my pal KID SIS IN HOLLYWOOD, but also, in the interest of turning this thing into a giant pyramid scheme, I'll ask my pals Reggie Newton at and Greg Rolnick at to chime in about their hometown (from whence came Our Man and Our Woman in LA).

Whether they play is up to them.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006


A late for Monday post, but at least I'm in the late niche

Sorry, sorry, sorry. Yeah, I know it. I'm late again. No real good excuse, although it has been a trifle hectic over here at stately Wieland Manor the last week or so. But I should be better. I'll try to be better. Really, seriously, I will. And because I recognize your pain, I'll take my two demerits for being tardy, and I'll take them home to get them signed by my parents. Swear to God I will.

Anyway, you might have heard that out here in LA, we had a little entertainment industry party and shindig over the weekend. Lot of people tuned in on the television. Lot of famous, beautiful people showed up. Seemed like a lot of the pretty ones - Clooney, Witherspoon, the absolutely gorgeous Rachel Weisz - won something for their trouble.

But Our Man in LA isn't here to comment on the Oscars just gone by. Don't know what I'd say, really, that hasn't already been said. I was surprised by the split, with Ang Lee getting Best Director and CRASH getting best picture. I'm bummed because I think that BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN really was the best picture of the year, but CRASH is good enough that I can't really protest. I thought Jon Stewart played it safe, but told a few great jokes. I thought the intro for the greatest hit and miss director of all time, Robert Altman, totally nailed his oeuvre. If Altman's smart, he'll get Lily Tomlin and Meryl Streep together and soon. Doesn't matter for what project. It'd be entertaining to watch them banter the ingredients of a Hostess Twinkie.

What Our Man in LA did find interesting over the weekend is Patrick Goldstein's "Big Picture" column in the LA Times. You can read it here if you prefer the actual text to good, old fashioned literary criticism:,1,5838858.column?coll=la-news-columns

Anyhow, in his latest commentary, Goldstein decries the fact that the Oscars, along with other formerly big ticket television spectacles like the World Series, NBA Finals, and the Grammys - are declining in ratings. People are apparently losing interest in these big shows, not so much because they're no longer important, but instead because we are now, as he describes "a nation of niches".

"Fewer events," he writes, "Capture the communal pop culture spirit. The action is elsewhere, with the country watching cable shows or reading blogs that play to a specific audience."

Reading blogs? Mon dieu!

The story goes on and on, and it won't do much good for me to recount it all here. Suffice it to say that we don't, as a culture, all watch the same things anymore, and there's less togetherness around the TV, and people in the Midwest don't care for all that there left-leaning Hollywood liberalism with its gay cowboys and movies about racial unrest in the Sodom and Gomorrah of Southern California.

Perhaps Our Man in LA is missing something. It happens. He's slow on many issues. Quantum physics, for one. But I digress. The thing is, my reaction to Goldstein's column is, "So?"

OK, so the Oscars and the World Series and all those other touchstone events don't quite draw like they once did. But on the upside, there are other shows, other events on television, the Internet, maybe even outside the home that actually speak to people outside the so-called mainstream.

And by the way, if you don't live in one of those Red States - heck, even if you do - don't look now, but the mainstream isn't so mainstream anymore. I feel like we hear these kinds of worries all the time, mostly by one set of traditionalists or another. It's sort of a cultural take on "When I was your age, I walked uphill to school . . . in the snow . . . did I mention it was uphill both ways . . . being chased by a pack of wild dogs . . ."

Right. So we're a nation of niches now. Our Woman in LA and I still watch the Oscars. But we know people who don't. If they'd rather take a run, or watch something on one of their 500+ stations, or even something not in English, so be it. That's why there's cable, and while we're at it, that's sort of the cool thing about having a melting pot culture.

Goldstein goes on in his discussion to suggest that this downward spiraling apocalypse, where nobody watches the Oscars and the World Series, or even Milton Berle (gasp!) anymore, may someday cause the awards to select movies that appeal to a wider demographic, or have other flashy, fun advantages that bring in the kids. You know, like Ryan Seacrest hosting.

Somehow, I doubt that'll happen. The Oscars will be what it is. It'll just have its niche, no matter how out of touch liberal they are, with their movies about tolerance and equal rights. Harumph!

Just like baseball and basketball and all the rest. Maybe not Milton Berle. OK, most of the rest.

Because let's get serious about the Oscars for a second here. How many mainstream Americans out there EVER see all the nominated films, especially vis a vis the big action movies, horror movies, sappy romantic comedies, and other popcorn munchers? I'm pretty sure that most of Governor Schwarzenegger's movies did better than, say, MY LEFT FOOT. Or just about anything ever directed by Woody Allen. Or anything ever featuring, say, William Hurt.

So it was already a niche audience. Folks might have watched before when there was nothing else on, but let's free those people to watch their home shows, food shows, NASCAR races, or movies on demand. Hollywood's take on the art of film is not for everyone.

Which reminds me. I think we TIVO'd American Idol.

Later . . .

Friday, March 03, 2006


A not-too late Friday post (and OSCAR fun!)

Unless you've been living under a rock (or perhaps just outside of LA), you know that this Sunday brings the Oscars back to television. In Los Angeles, you can't miss it. The city closed down Hollywood Boulevard this week, starting at Highland and moving west for a couple of blocks, just to set up the red carpet. Billboards advertise it above nearly every street. The newspapers and television stations buzz about the awards, about this year's host Jon Stewart. Yup. This is the Super Bowl of entertainment (even if it predates the actual Super Bowl).

Also, the Oscars are pretty big doings for Our Woman in LA. She loves them. Loves a lot of award shows, but this one in particular. In past years, we've hosted mammoth Oscar parties with chocolate statuettes and drinks flowing. No drinking games, but then, the Oscars are for civilized folks.

Now I like the Oscars, but every year I find at least one nominee that makes me scratch my head. You know, like the year GHOST was up for best picture. And for every one of those head-scratchers, there's an award going to an actor who should have won decades ago, but the Academy just got around to it. Think the great Paul Newman in the fair COLOR OF MONEY.

Hans Noel, official pal of Our Man in LA, instituted an alternate Oscars on his blog years ago, and this year we bring it back for Our Man's readers. Dr. Noel and I have pored over a few key categories where things went horribly awry, and a few other categories where we think there were other deserving candidates. It's our opinions, and we're sticking to them.

Well, at least for as long as it takes for me to post them in this blog. But we'll also explain our alternate picks, so you get the picture. Or is that "picks-ture". Heh.

Anyway. On with the show:


Actual Nominees:

Chronicles of Narnia
King Kong
War of the Worlds

Alternate Nominees:

Sin City
Batman Begins
Star Wars Episode III


This is the category that got us to resurrect the alternate Oscars. We're really not sure what exactly the Academy smoked during this selection, but if we were back in college, it would probably be welcome at a good party. Hans saw Chronicles of Narnia, and while we both liked the Saturday Night Live rap about going to see it, Hans tells me that the effects were crap. Kong was worthy, but War of the Worlds made us both say "eh" at the end, which is never really that good a sign.

Sin City, on the other hand, might well be the most visually stunning film of the last several years. And visually inventive. Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller took some heat because Rodriguez dropped out of the DGA this year, but the film shouldn't get negged for that. It really is like nothing else you'll see.

Similarly, the new Star Wars films have been criticized for being low on story and fun, but their effects have been masterful. This movie really does look great, far more than at least two of the three nominees.

And Batman? Well, we like Batman. And the creation of a real-feeling Gotham City out of a very different Chicago made both Dr. Noel and I sit up and take notice.


Actual Nominees:

Amy Adams, Junebug
Catherine Keener, Capote
Frances McDormand, North Country
Rachel Weisz, Constant Gardener
Michelle Williams, Brokeback Mountain

Alternate Nominees:

Renee Zellwegger, Cinderella Man
Laura Linney, Squid and the Whale
Giniffer Goodwin, Walk the Line
Emily Mortimer, Match Point
Patricia Clarkson, Good Night and Good Luck


This one was pretty hard. It wasn't a great year for female performances, and Dr. Noel and I liked most of what we saw here. Keener, Weisz, and Williams were amazing, and even though I didn't see North Country, I feel safe in assuming that McDormand, one of the best actresses of her generation, was likewise amazing. But still, we felt there were some other deserving performers.

For one thing, did anyone see Cinderella Man, Squid and the Whale, or Match Point? You're going to notice us coming back to these films again and again, and with good reason. Cinderella Man features Zellwegger's best work ever, and Match Point has fascinating, multi-faceted performances from great unheralded actors. Linney and Clarkson, like McDormand, are always great, and especially put together terrific work here.


Actual Nominees:

George Clooney, Syriana
Matt Dillon, Crash
Paul Giamatti, Cinderella Man
Jake Gyllenhaal, Brokeback Mountain
William Hurt, History of Violence

Alternate Nominees:

Chris Cooper, Syriana
Christopher Walken, Wedding Crashers
Alexander Siddig, Syriana
Mickey Rourke, Sin City
Jesse Eisenberg, Squid and the Whale


Dr. Noel and I particularly liked the work by Clooney, Dillon and Giamatti, and probably either Clooney (with three noms this year) or Giamatti (who got dissed last year despite amazing work in American Splendor and Sideways) will win.

That said, 2006 saw no shortage of great supporting performances by men. I especially want to mention Mickey Rourke's comeback performance as the homicidal maniac in black and white in Sin City. Rourke's never been one of my favorite actors, but he's spellbinding here. Also worth mentioning are the two gentlemen from Syriana, and Christopher Walken playing the unusual role of straight man to Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson.


Actual Nominees:

Judi Dench, Mrs. Henderson Presents
Felicity Huffman, Transamerica
Keira Knightley, Pride and Prejudice
Charlize Theron, North Country
Reese Witherspoon, Walk the Line

Alternate Nominees:

Catherine Keener, The 40-Year-Old Virgin
Sandra Bullock, Crash
Maria Bello, History of Violence
Naomi Watts, King Kong
Scarlett Johansen, Match Point


Best Actress seemed like one of the more disappointing categories this year. While Huffman and Witherspoon - the frontrunners - should be in the mix, the rest seem like placeholders. Previous winners Theron and Dench are usually very good, but these movies don't seem to stretch them much. And Knightley seems to be on hand because Rule 21.3A of the Academy handbook says that if there's a major period piece costume drama by Jane Austen in wide release, well, then SOMEBODY BETTER GET NOMINATED.

If you're looking at our picks, you're starting to notice some trends. Like this one. Keener and Walken both appeared in comedies, which never have actors, writing, directing, or the picture itself nominated. Why? Probably because of Rule 22.3B of the Academy handbook, which states: "Comedies will not be nominated, because it will not serve pseudo-intellectuals in America's red states, who will feel silly talking about the artistic merits of REVENGE OF THE NERDS, which means they'll stop going to movies . . ."

And then there are the other performances. Bullock really proves herself as an actress as a West Side racist in Crash. Watts is amazing acting opposite a green screen that she pretends is a big ape. Bello brings grittiness to her middle American wife and mom. And Johanssen makes us root - momentarily, at least - for the femme fatale.


Actual Nominees:

Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote
Terrence Howard, Hustle and Flow
Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain
Joaquin Phoenix, Walk the Line
David Strathairn, Good Night, and Good Luck

Alternate Nominees:

Ralph Fiennes, The Constant Gardener
Owen Wilson, Wedding Crashers
John Rhys-Meyers, Match Point
Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man
Jeff Daniels, The Squid and the Whale


Actually, Dr. Noel and I had very little problem with this category as the Academy put it together. Hoffman, Strathairn, and Phoenix do spot-on interpretations of real life cultural icons. Terrence Howard's work is nothing short of breathtaking - especially when you put this performance up against Howard in Crash, as a smooth, refined TV director. And Ledger frankly does more with less dialogue than we've seen in a major performance in years if not decades.

But we figured that since we're here, we might as well close out the acting categories. Ralph Fiennes is at the top of the list both because of the way he manages to emote through the chilly nature of his British diplomat character in Constant Gardener, and because of the way he truly terrified us at He Who Shall Not Be Named in Harry Potter 4. Ralph's a great actor, and he does not get the notice that he deserves. When was the last time he was nominated? He should be back.

Owen Wilson, on the face of it, might seem like he doesn't belong here. But his performance in Wedding Crashers was, in our opinion, the comedic performance of the year. If the Academy were willing to admit that comedy can still be an art, Wilson would find himself getting more recognition.

The rest likewise had brilliant years. Rhys-Meyers came out of nowhere to blow us away with his social climber in Match Point. Russell Crowe gave one of his softest, most human performances in the apparently unseen Cinderella Man, and Jeff Daniels capped an already interesting and diverse career with his engaging look at a selfish, no-good kind of dad.

And now, finally, here are the big doings . . .


Actual Nominees:

Brokeback Mountain
Good Night, and Good Luck

Alternate Nominees:

Cinderella Man
Match Point
The Constant Gardener
Walk the Line
Wedding Crashers


Truly, the Oscar noms ain't bad. Brokeback is a truly amazing film that deserves to be there, and deserves to win. Good Night, and Good Luck and Crash are solid nominees addressing social ills. More than great films, they are great discussion pieces - the kind of movies that Oscar likes to support because they get people talking. Munich would seem to fit that category as well, but it seems a bit off the mark. And Capote, while containing at least three of the best performances of the year, is probably not a film that should get 1/5 of the nomination.

Which brings us to the alternates. Like the Academy, we've brought two films that are amazing conversation pieces about social and political ills - Syriana and The Constant Gardener. But we believe these films trump Oscar's "important" flicks precisely because they present no easy solutions, happy endings, or neat packages. Neither one ends in the way we would like for our heroes. More to the point, both films shoot a little higher, dealing with problems that are so mammoth through the eyes of characters who are essentially powerless.

Walk the Line and Cinderella Man, on the other hand, are tremendous displays of the power of human will. They present real world heroes who make the difficult decision to change their lives, and in the process serve as icons for the world around them. Cinderella Man really is Ron Howard's best work - believe the hype. And Walk the Line never takes the easy way out or cuts corners in its unwavering description of a man who was less than perfect.

Match Point makes the list because it marks the return of a master filmmaker to greatness. Both Dr. Noel and I have been huge Woody Allen fans since forever, and it's a relief to see him operating at this level. He delivers emotional punch after emotional punch, telling a story that will surprise you and force you to question the morality of its characters at every turn.

You might also notice that we at the Alternate Academy have a sixth film in there. This celebrates the fact that in the 30s and 40s, Oscar could nominate more than five films. It also celebrates the fact that we couldn't make a final cut.

More important, this film - Wedding Crashers - cracked us up as only a great comedy can. It deserves to be recognized as great, if only because sometimes it is harder to make people laugh than it is to make them cry or think. Wilson and Vaughn deliver the goods in this movie. They don't go for easy laughs, and their characters make decisions with which every moviegoer can identify. The Academy needs to recognize comedy and its achievements in film. Until they do, Our Man in LA and Dr. Noel stand here to defend our funny brothers and sisters.

I mean, really. Sure, there was probably no more affecting line of dialogue in a movie this year than Gyllenhaal's "I wish I knew how to quit you" in Brokeback. We grant you that.

But was there a funnier line than this one, from Owen Wilson in Wedding Crashers:

"You know, scientists say people only use 10 percent of their brains, but I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts."

Rock on, Owen. Stand tall with your alternate Oscar brethren.

See you Monday, everyone.


Late Thursday: Time for me to complain about LOST again

Having returned from my travels to the middle of the country, Our Man in LA had a lot of catching up to do. Bills to pay, work to do, all the usuals. And, of course, TIVO'd shows to watch. And so, with a heavy heart, I watched Wednesday night's episode of the hit TV show annoyance LOST.

As you may remember, I have the same relationship with LOST that the functioning junkie has with SMACK. I know it's no good. I know I shouldn't watch. But I figure one more hit, and maybe that'll be it. Maybe I'll finally be able to kick the habit forever. I just need to get through this week, I figure, and then I'll get stronger.

I'm doomed. At least until I can find the TV equivalent of methadone.

In recent weeks, the LOST hits have gotten less and less satisfying. I find that the characters I once liked - like Charlie and Sayid - are on the Wieland crap list now. Charlie's addiction plotline is tired and stale (though I suppose that I should be learning some kind of lesson from it, given my relationship with the show). And I lost all interest and sympathy for Sayid last week when he tortured the guy who may or may not be one of the "Others".

Momentary digression here. Why did Sayid's torture bother me? A couple of reasons. First, he started whaling on the guy, really brutalizing him, because of his rage and sorrow over losing his girlfriend Claire. And yet, when he had the chance to face up to Michelle Rodriguez's character Ana Lucia, who actually did kill Claire, he gave her a quick and boring pass. Hell, by the beginning of this episode, they were basically pals. This bothers me. First because I don't think I'd be so forgiving about someone who hurt my loved ones.

Second, because watching Michelle Rodriguez act is like an act of torture to viewers everywhere. I mean, really. At first, I thought she was just written poorly, which she is. But it's really a whole package. She's terrible.

The second reason I can't roll with Sayid anymore is that I already have one TV hero who flaunts his skill at torture. In general, I'm pretty well against torture of any kind. I don't much care for the way our government uses it, even against potentially murderous terrorists. And I don't like it on TV much, either. Not to go all Bob Greene on y'all - you know, talking about how things used to be so much better than they are today - but remember when the only characters in movies, books, and TV who used torture were the VILLAINS? The Joker might torture someone, but Batman sure didn't.

But make no mistake. I'll abride my ideals on this subject for good entertainment. Just not all the time. So I can live with Jack Bauer torturing bad guys on 24. But Sayid will have to sit on the bench till Jack and the CTU force have had their turn. Tough luck, LOST cast and crew. Bauer and co. just got here first.

Anyway, this week's episode was fine. A little high for Our Man in LA, learning about where Claire was for a couple of months. The rest was so-so. During one flip through commercials via TIVO, I did an informal count of characters I still like or find interesting on the show. I think we're at seven: Jack, Sawyer, Michael and Walt (who haven't been seen since 2005), Jin and Sun, and Hurley. Maybe Kate. I fluctuate.

The last word on LOST as we close in on the home stretch of its second season? It's a bad habit, kids. Don't get started. But if you're going to, I'll be here next week, watching it again.

That is, unless someone's got a line on another show, to wean the addiction.


Better late than never Wednesday post

You'd already given me up for dead, hadn't you? Yeah, I know how it goes. Your fave blogger - or at least one of the bloggers you occasionally read - says that he or she is back on track, is going to be more meticulous about posting. And then what? Two posts, three max - and poof! The blogger is gone. Back into the Internet ether.

Well, that ain't Our Man in LA.

He's tardy, to be sure. Anyone who's ever hung out with Our Man knows that he's frequently late. No exception this week. But fear not. You'll get your full Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday posts from Mr. Wieland, even if you get them a bit late. Like right now.

Onto Wednesday's regularly scheduled post, something we'll call . . .

American Gold card turns LAX a bit less lax

Once again, the time has come for Our Man in LA to venture out into the world outside of Southern California. Today - Wednesday, March 1 (wink wink, nudge nudge) - I'm headed back to the cold and windy Midwest of my youth for about 48 hours. And like a lot of people, the idea of traveling lost its luster after high school. When you started having to take off your shoes to get through security, when you first had to sit in the middle seat on a redeye from Chicago to LA, when you first had a flight attendant spill OJ all over you in a pocket of turbulence, well, the bloom was off the travel flower.

Until today, you see.

Last month, I heard from Our Woman in LA's preferred airline (which used to be mine, too, before I became, ahem, disgruntled). Anyway, it turns out that moving across the country paid off in more ways than one. Because of the trips in 2005 to Ohio and the East Coast, I have now achieved Gold status with the airline. I got the card, slipped it into my wallet, and then promptly forgot about it.

Again, until today.

Because today, as I went to check in for my flight, it occurred to me: "Let's just see what this Gold Card can do". I figured nothing special.

Folks, Our Man in LA has never been more happy to be proven wrong in his life. Picture this. First, I'm ushered by airline staff to the nearly empty First Class check-in line. Then the friendly (that's right, friendly) woman behind the counter, gets me a much better seat and offers to put me on the upgrade list for first class. Then I head to the line for security, but . . .

Oh no, Mr. Wieland, you get to go through security with the good guys today. So no waiting. I sailed right through. Tons of time for a stop at the Starbuck's and the book store. My cup literally runneth over.

Then I get to the plane - where I'm automatically in Group 1 for boarding - and I sail past all those suckers who have to wait for Groups 2, 3, and 4 just to end up in the same row as me. The status. The power. God help me. I'm giddy.

The Gold Card is like a drug.

And it gets more so. I've been informed by the powers that be at Our Woman in LA's fave airline that for my next flight, I got me some free dibs on the Admiral's Club.

What can I tell you? It's all coming together. First the CW network. Now the Gold Card. Yeah. It's good to be me.

EDITOR'S NOTE: On the return trip, the magic of the Gold Card was tested. A surly airline employee on the ground in Chicago's super busy, super disorganized O'Hare International yelled at me for getting in the wrong security line, even after being directed there by the check-in counter.

But not to worry, fair readers. The Gold Card didn't lose its power. After I boarded the plane back to LA (in Group 1, natch), I found myself on a very full flight. Packed, even. Virtually every seat taken. Every middle seat, even.

Except in my row. There? Empty but for me, chilling on the aisle.

Bwahahaha! Gold Card, you serve me well!

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