Friday, July 28, 2006


The belated Bottom One: Life in Jethro and Ellie Mae's terrarium

It's been a long week for Our Man in LA out in Music City, USA, and there hasn't exactly been a dearth of things that could qualify as a Wednesday Bottom One. Mostly, the life of a semi-corporate drone doesn't fit right for Our Man in LA. I'm tired, my feet hurt, and I just plain old don't like the matching golf shirts that my coworkers and I are forced to wear. They're just ugly.

So look, I know that I've taken some heat for my occasional disrespect for Middle America. I don't mean to start up any kind of firestorm. But there just can't be any question.

And I know it's probably not the smartest thing that I've ever done to bitch about work and work stuff in the blog. People have lost their gigs for lesser offenses.

But I have to be real.

The Wednesday, er, Friday Bottom One title belongs to . . .

Opryland. Sorry, I meant the Gaylord Opryland Resort.

Before I go into the litany of reasons why it's the bottom one, let me re-affirm that I don't hate Middle America and small town values or red states. And if you think I do, sorry. And if your ancestors hail from Opryland, and you think I'm sort of anti-Opry guy, well, sorry again.

Clearly, the problem's with me. But consider for a second:

1) First of all, Opryland is like Jethro and Ellie Mae's terrarium. If you haven't been here, picture this. You know how Disneyland and Disneyworld have those little "neighborhoods" - like Frontierland and Old Town New Orleans? Well, imagine two of those little hoods - any two will do. Now you've got the size of Opryland.

Now, put it under a glass bubble. That's right, a glass bubble. Remember the Bottle City of Kandor from the Superman comics? Well, this is the bottle city of the old Confederacy.

Inside the bubble, you have constant AC blowing over the otherwise imitation natural environment. A shallow, completely man-made river runs through the "town." A rickety old trawler lies in its middle, half sunk. Which would be fine, except it never floated. It was made to look like a half-sunk trawler.

In the morning, you go out on your balcony in the hotel and look down at the town of Opryland, with its historic . . . tacky, overpriced souvenir stores and chain restaurants . . . and then you realize, you're not outside. You're under the glass. Like part of someone's ant collection.

At night, you walk back from dinner and you stare up at the stars. Until you realize that they're not the stars. They're artificial lights webbed into the surface of the terrarium, so that when you look up, you think there are stars there.


I could go on and on. I could describe any number of a thousand interactions with the Opryland staff. I won't. Well, OK, I'll do this one.

I get lost in the maze of the "Delta" section of Opryland. I ask a souvenir store clerk where the Bayou C Conference Room is. What follows are her directions:

Girl: Take a left and then go till you hit the Opryland Store, then go down the stairs, then a right, then up the escalator, then across the Magnolia lobby, then follow the signs to the Convention Center, but take a left. You'll see the signs for the Jackson Room, the Lincoln Room, the Bayou Room, and all the other presidents' rooms."

In responding, I only got this far, "You know, Bayou wasn't one of the . . ."

Then I realized. What's the point? Long live President Bayou.

By the way, the store sold Moon Pies as souvenirs. Which brings us to . . .

2) The food. I know that I've been living in California too long. But honestly, when you're in a place that the "healthy" veggie sandwich comes with a half pound of shredded American cheese AND lettuce, tomato, onion, and thousand island dressing, we have a failure to communicate.

Last night, I ordered room service. It was late. I ordered a "Black and Blue Salad," which the room service menu claimed to be a garden salad with pieces of beef tenderloin mixed in. I figured it'd be perfect. Ordered that and a Sam Adams.

"Just one?" the room service guy said.

"Yeah," I said.

"How do you drink just one?"

"Uh, it's late, and I want to go to bed, and . . ."

"I could never do that. You sure you don't want two?"

I consider telling him that I have a limit on the number of $6 bottled beers I want to drink in my entire life, but instead I say, "I think I'll just have one."

"Don't know how you do it, man."

"Willpower, I guess."

"Y'all want some Jack Daniels Chocolate Pie with that?"

When I visited some friends in Chicago a couple of months back, I got sassed by them for only eating twigs and wheatgrass now that I live in California. And while it's not that extreme, I was still kind of surprised when my one (yes, one) beer and salad showed up.

Because remember those pieces of beef tenderloin in the salad? Yeah. Well, it was basically a 12 oz steak cut into five pieces on top of the salad. I like steak, but dude. One of the pieces was the size of the palm of my hand. And it came with a basket with four huge pieces of bread.

Thank God I didn't get that pie. Buh. And I work for an organization trying to end childhood obesity.

3) I could go on. There's just so much more. The cab driver reading the LEFT BEHIND series. Here's a snippet from that conversation:

Cab Driver: I'm reading that Left Behind book. You know, it's about that End of Days.

Wieland: Uh-huh. How are those Tennesssee Titans gonna be this year?

Cab Driver: Miserable. It's like they ain't even got a plan . . . should have gotten Jay Cutler . . . fans won't take it . . . tell you another thing . . . if I ever get a DUI, I want a lawyer from Vanderbilt.

By the way, if you're wondering how we got from the Titans to the DUI/lawyer from Vanderbilt thing, well, I don't know, either.

Or I could take aim at my travels out here. Nobody seems to know why the Southwest Terminal at LAX seems humid on the inside. Or why there's a bird flying around Gates 9 through 13. That's right, a literal bird. It never ventures past the Starbucks, but there's nothing like having a sparrow divebombing Group C of your flight to Nashville.

Or I could point my sights at the matching golf shirts. Thursday was red with a patterned collar. Today was black. Tomorrow is a different red with a solid collar. When you see people wearing them, you sort of feel like you work at Best Buy. On the other hand, we probably have better benefits.

Or I could just point you to another thing I witnessed while here in the Music City. It's a new recording artist named Cowboy Troy. He considers himself a rap/country crossover artist, or to quote him, "a hick hop artist." I can't go into the story of why I've heard of him. It's too painful. But I can send you to his website.

It's got sample tracks and everything. My God. Including from his hit single, "I Played Chicken with a Train."

Good night, everybody. Nothing tops that.


Far from LA and a couple of days late, but still a TUESDAY TOP FIVE

Our Man in LA ventured out from the safety of his blazing hot Southern California home this week. Work called, as it sometimes does, and beckoned me to an all-staff meeting of my Chicago-based employer. But this particular road trip didn’t take me back to the Big Windy of my former hometown. Instead, along with 5,000 other employees from across the globe, Our Man in LA finds himself in the allegedly live music capital of the world – Nashville, Tennessee.

The whole thing has put me off-schedule. Maybe it’s the time change. Maybe it’s the preponderance of country music or the matching red polo shirts that we all have to wear during the day here. Or the eerie Disney meets Jethro and Elly Mae vibe of Opryland. Whatever it is, I know it’s not Tuesday, but I still have a Top Five.

After all, why should you suffer?

5. Culver City Veterans Memorial Park. Before I left for the American South, I revisited this great place, just down Overland from the place where Our Woman in LA and I used to live. You see, I’ve been trying to get in my running “homework” between weekly long runs while training for the upcoming half marathon. But LA’s been godawful hot, and especially later in the day.

And the further east you go in LA (away from the water, toward downtown), the hotter it gets. Which means exhaustion on days where the mercury tops out at 100+ degrees.

So I headed back toward the water. When Steph and I trained for the Rock n Roll Half Marathon last year, this was our main training ground. It might well be the perfect city neighborhood park. Don’t get me wrong. I love my new digs and Griffith Park – but Griffith Park is more primal. It doesn’t seem to belong in a city, given its rolling hills and the impressive backdrop it creates.

Veterans Memorial is just a square. There are a million like it in a million cities around the country – if indeed there are a million cities in the USA, which probably there are not. It’s just shady, with good basketball and tennis courts, a cute playground, and a solid mix of families, teens, young singles and marrieds like Our Woman in LA and me, and the occasional homeless person.

Best of all, it’s shady and cool these days. And once around the park is a half mile. Which is criteria enough.

4. EXODUS. I read the Leon Uris book when I was a kid. It was one of those impressively thick hardbacks that they had in one of the massive bookcases in the downstairs playroom. It looked interesting, and I went for it. Took me weeks to read – not because it was bad. It’s not. It’s pretty good. But in my teens, Leon Uris novels didn’t digest as easily as, say, the latest DR WHO novel.

But this week, I rented the 1960 movie with Paul Newman, Lee J. Cobb, Eva Marie Saint, and Sal Mineo. Really great stuff, especially if you have the occasional hankering for a movie epic. OK, fine, I’m thinking about the David Lean era epics. The ones without Hobbits and Ewoks. I like those, too, but every once in a while, it’s nice to see sanitized history on the screen.

This one has all the stuff you like, if you’re a fan of the LAWRENCE OF ARABIA school. Tragic deaths, historic fights, a cool movie star playing a sort-of historically accurate hero. So if you have almost 4 hours, get in there. There’s even a shot of the Jerusalem International YMCA, for which Our Man in LA toils during the day.

3. BATTLESTAR GALACTICA. OK, here’s the part where Our Man in LA talks about how much he likes something that everyone else has been talking about for ages. Yes, once again, I’m late to the party, but at the urging of some work friends (and the need to do something during a four hour flight to Nashville), I rented the first mini-series. I have good feelings about the admittedly cheesy TV show from the 70s, so I figured what the hell.

Well worth it. This Battlestar is a lot darker, a lot smarter, sexier and stronger. Starbuck’s a woman, and she’s only about a million times tougher than the character in the 70s version was (then played by “Face” from THE A-TEAM). Plus, you’ve got Edward James Olmos as Commander Adama, human-looking Cylon warriors, and the rest.

I’m not a real sci-fi fan. I know, I know. I talk comics all the time. But space operas a la Star Trek usually leave me cold. This is good stuff. It’s adult, and the characters are real. The drama is political and intellectual, but at the same time, there’s none of that, “look, it’s a metaphor for the Cold War” crap that you see on so many space shows. It’s just good watching.

2. Justice League of America #0. See, just because I don’t normally like sci-fi stuff doesn’t mean I’m off the geek wagon just yet.

A year or two back, novelist Brad Meltzer wrote a miniseries for DC Comics called IDENTITY CRISIS, about the murder of the wife of B-list hero Elongated Man. It was pretty riveting. A smart detective story with an emotional edge, not to mention containing a pretty shocking series of betrayals perpetrated by people supposed to be heroes. It was a book billed as “for people who hate super heroes,” and probably it was. Those of us who love the super heroes, though, we had a good time, too.

At any rate, the events set in motion by IDENTITY CRISIS resulted in the breakup of the august Justice League, with its three main members (Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman) more or less at each other’s throats at the end. Now, a little more than a year later, the three gather again, make amends, and start talking about how to rebuild the thing they so fully destroyed. And, of course, who to invite to the party.

As they begin their discussion, Meltzer takes us through the history of the relationship the three share, including a number of key moments in the past (the forming of the original League, the wedding of Wonder Girl Donna Troy, the League’s break-up) as well as several in the future (weddings for Green Lantern Hal Jordan, Wonder Woman and (it’s implied) Batman, the death of one of the three, and maybe the final battle with arch villain Lex Luthor). Meltzer’s a great writer, and he does an admirable job making these three icons amazingly human. They like and respect each other, even when they hate one another.

So check it out. No lineup announced yet for the League. Meltzer’s said that there will be 10 members at first, with an 11th joining down the road. We’ll see.

1) BBC AMERICA – and specifically LIFE ON MARS and THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW. It’s happened over the last few weeks. Steph and I have begun to get really interested by Channel 109 on our Adelphia system, aka the BBC. The shows are strong and intriguing, and besides that, it beats summer reality shows.

LIFE ON MARS just started this past week, so you haven’t missed much. Get in there. The plot is this. A Manchester cop, sort of a CSI kind of guy tracking a serial killer, gets hit by a car. He wakes up and finds himself still in Manchester, but instead of it being 2006, it’s 1973 (when David Bowie recorded the song, LIFE ON MARS, which gives the show its title). He’s still a cop, and he faces similar threats. But the world hasn’t caught up to his CSI ways of the 21st century. Fingerprint study takes two weeks. Nobody’s heard of a Diet Coke or a mobile phone. And police work has to be done by feel and by gut.

Meanwhile, our hero gets the occasional clue that this might be a delusion, that he might be in a coma. Or is there something else?

I’m not being coy with that question. I don’t know. I just saw the first episode.

Great idea. Good casting. And did I mention that the period piece is extremely well done? I have no idea what Machester, UK, actually looked like in 1973, but if it was far off this, I’d be surprised. It’s worth a look.

THE CATHERINE TATE SHOW has Our Woman in LA rolling with laughter. It’s sort of a latter-day Tracey Ullman show, with British comedienne Tate doing a series of characters and sketches that come back episode after episode. She brings a very fresh, very British take on the modern teenager, the woman who gets dates via the Internet, and many more.

Best of all for Our Woman in LA, her teen character Lauren, whose snotty remarks and catchphrase “Am I bothered?” (which sounds like “Am I bovvered?”) seem remarkably real to someone working with a couple of dozen teenagers every week.

So check it out. Unless you’re too consumed with AMERICA HAS TALENT, or whatever.

And that’s it for today, folks. A top five, delivered all the way from Nashville. See you soon.

Monday, July 24, 2006


Happy to be the designated driver this time around

As most of y'all know, Our Woman in LA and I are currently training to run the Disneyland Half Marathon this September, and as part of our work, we're raising money for AIDS Project LA (APLA). It's a terrific cause - APLA delivers services and care to people with HIV and AIDS throughout the Los Angeles area. Since there are currently enough people in LA with HIV/AIDS to fill Dodger Stadium, it's a necessary cause, too.

When you're training for something like this, it changes your focus. In part, that's because you think about the service centers, and you think about the money and help that goes to people with this terrible disease. But you shatter other kinds of myths, too.

Take this for example: the designated driver.

Here's the skinny. In training, you run in pace groups, based on how fast you run an individual mile. You might be in an 11 minute pace group, or 12 minutes or . . . well, you get the picture. Every group has a pace leader. He or she makes sure that the group doesn't go too fast or too slow, and that they take walk breaks at the right time.

There's also a designated driver. This person stays at the back of the pack, making sure that nobody falls too far behind. If someone doesn't feel well, or gets hurt, the designated driver stays with that person. Why? Because nobody gets left behind.

Given that I hadn't done much in the way of group athletics since high school gym class (and the occasional dorm football game), this sort of attitude seemed pretty strange at first. Hell, in high school, you spend as much time competing with the other people on your own team as you do playing against the other guys. Nobody wants to be the one who can't finish. Or the one who finishes last.

I guess it's a pretty LORD OF THE FLIES way to look at things, but that's high school.

In half marathon training, it's the opposite. We're working together. There really is a team atmosphere. Finishing ahead of your team - being the star - it's a negative. So it becomes a lot more fun. And look, when you're running 7, 8, or 9 miles, you need all the fun you can get.

I served as my pace group's designated driver this weekend. If you're on the Wieland family's e-mail list, you probably know the specifics: 7 miles, hottest day in LA history, 119 degrees in the Valley in the afternoon (and 90+ degrees while we were running at 8).

Not an easy day to finish a long run, but everybody in my 11-minute pace group did it. When somebody started to fall behind, it was my job to make sure they were OK, to walk with them and jog with them until they could get back in the pack, or until they finished on their own. It took about an hour and 20 minutes, but everybody crossed the finish line.

I won't always be the designated driver. Teams are supposed to rotate them. But I'm glad I did it this week. We're about halfway through our training - six weeks or so from the half marathon.

When I head down to Anaheim next month to run the race - which goes through Disneyland, Angel Stadium, and around the Pond of Anaheim - I'll know that there's someone there to run with me, no matter how tired I get, no matter how hot it is or how hard the course.

We should all be so lucky.

Friday, July 21, 2006


Crank it up! Way up!

We don't do much with music here at Our Man in LA headquarters. It just isn't a subject I feel that comfortable blogging about. I don't know where the coolest internet music sites are, I don't vibe on the coolest bands. When I glance through the CDs in my car, I find a collection that seems like an amazing facsimilie of what I owned when I was in college nearly 15 years ago.

To me, it's still about Springsteen, U2, Mellencamp, the Police, the Replacements, and a few others. Sure, I branch out occasionally. I like Coldplay. I like Linkin Park, I like Eminem. But otherwise, I'm set in my ways.

But just because I don't spend my days haunting the aisles of Amoeba Records on Sunset doesn't mean that I haven't heard the occasional pop song. For example, not so long ago, there was that "You're Beautiful" song by James Blunt. First heard that on an episode of SMALLVILLE, then proceeded to hear it on the radio EVERY DAY for about a year.

Heavy duty radio play like that deserves some ridicule - and by someone with more solid musical skills than mine. So imagine my pleasure at going to the link below:

Do yourself a favor. Click on that one. Sit back and breathe it in. Think about the crappy jobs you may have had, and the crappy workspaces, and enjoy. If you've ever worked long hours in a dismal office, or dreamed of making a diorama of the cube where you work, this song is for you.

Have a good weekend, y'all.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Look Out! It’s the Wednesday Bottom One – guest writer style!

Hey folks, Our Man in LA here. As many of you know, today is my birthday (not to mention the wedding anniversary of good pals Mary-Jo and Greg). So as part of the celebration of the grand old day, Our Woman in LA is giving me an extra special gift.

She’s guest writing today’s blog posting, giving you her own personal Wednesday Bottom One . . . through the magic of film and prose.

Now I don’t want you guys to get the wrong idea. I had plenty of topics for today’s Bottom One. I was prepared to talk about the heat in LA (80s and 90s? What’s that all about?). I considered a rant about PROJECT RUNWAY, a show the wife seems to like.

I could have mentioned the President’s decision today to veto expanded stem cell research, truly one of the dumbest vetoes of all time. But then again, what better Bottom One is there than the Bush Presidency in its entirety?

I was ready to go with the recent obsession with the newborn children of movie stars. Have you read and heard about all the so-called controversy because nobody’s seen a picture of Tom Cruise’s new child? Can you explain why it’s a big deal?

Anybody? Seriously, why? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?

But then Our Woman in LA swooped in and saved the day. She had her own Bottom One to share. And it’s . . . well, I’ll let her tell you:

Hi everyone, it’s Our Woman in L.A. I am really excited about my first ever appearance on the Man in L.A. blog. Pretty cool. Before I get to my own bottom one of the week, I must say, HAPPY BIRTHDAY to the most amazing husband and friend I could have ever asked for.

Okay, so here’s my personal bottom one moment of the week. It’s a before and after shot. Here you go:

BEFORE: Stephanie enjoying a lovely stroll by the fresh fields of lavender
in Santa Barbara. Away from teenagers, cell phones, traffic, and the Trader
Joe's parking lot.

AFTER: Stephanie has her picture taken after a long night of working,
answering cell phone calls from teenagers, and visiting the Trader Joe's
parking lot.

I don't need to explain anything, right?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


Hard to believe . . . but it’s a TUESDAY TOP FIVE (and a bonus)

If I’m going to keep to my word, and I’m going to age another year, then it would seem unfair if I’d bail on my promise for another Tuesday installment, now wouldn’t it?

So here it is. A return to the TUESDAY TOP FIVE, as promised. And a Wednesday Bottom One is just around the corner.

But on with the show . . .

5) The Inn at Summerhill . . . oh wait, and the Sage and Onion, and . . . aw, hell, Santa Barbara, California.

This weekend, Our Woman in LA and I took a 24-hour trip away from the big city, just to get some time to ourselves and celebrate the big upcoming birthday for yours truly. When we don’t have a lot of time, and we need some peace and quiet, Santa Barbara’s the place to go. Just a couple hours up the coast (but about 20 degrees cooler), it’s got a beautiful bay, and a great feel to the town. It’s just gorgeous and serene – a perfect getaway. One of my colleagues at my last job described it as “like LA in the 50s,” and I imagine he was right. It’s a great town, the vistas are inspiring, and it seems like it would be an author’s paradise. Kenneth Millar, aka Ross MacDonald thought it was, and I can see why. It’s the kind of place that cries out to be explored.

So a great night. The Inn at Summerhill, just south of town, is an amazing B&B with a ocean view. Sage and Onion delivered an amazing feast for the wife and I. And then there were wineries . . . but more on that later.

4) College Football Previews. In case you didn’t know, they’re out today – both on CNN/ and FoxSports. Thank the Gods.

Don’t get me wrong. I like baseball. I’m happy that my beloved Cincinnati Reds are doing well again, despite having struggled the last few years as a small market team in a big market league. But this part of the summer always seems to drag for me. Basketball’s over, the World Cup’s over, and I don’t want to see PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN 2.

But then I’m reminded that my favorite of all sports is almost back.

Last year’s football season left me on such a high that I was sad to see it end. I can’t wait for the sequel. The Mighty Mighty Longhorns won it all, and punished local pretty boy school USC in the process. Ohio State trounced Notre Dame. The Cincinnati Bengals returned to the playoffs after a long, painful drought.

How could I ask for anything more? I just can. I’m greedy.

Now, let’s get on to item 3. There are 119 Division 1A football teams previewed today, and I’m not going to hit them all if I stay here blogging.

3) FROM BEIRUT TO JERUSALEM by Thomas Friedman. A few weeks back, on one of my trips to Chicago, good friends Greg Rolnick and Mary-Jo Lipman lent me their copy (for more on them, and their very cute son, check out

Well, it’s great. Because of the new day job, I’ve been following pretty closely the situation in the Middle East, but like a lot of Americans, I’ve never really had a full grasp on the history and the context of the struggles in Israel, Lebanon and beyond. I’ve read the books, I could pass a test, but I’ve never fully understood – on a human level – all the intangibles.

I think Friedman gets you there. Telling anecdotes and covering verbal jousts and outright warfare, he explains the Middle East with amazing clarity and without talking down to his audience. It’s no wonder this won the National Book Award a few years back. It’s fantastic.

2) Super-hero movies. It wouldn’t be a proper Our Man in LA post if I didn’t talk about super-heroes somewhere, now would it?

A couple of weekends back, I had the opportunity to check out both X-Men 3: The Last Stand and Superman Returns. Two super-hero movies in one weekend (including one at the historic Vista movie palace, right around the corner from my house), well, that equals a great weekend. So good that I was barely angry about getting two parking tickets in one day.

Now look, I could do long reviews of both of them, but I’m not sure that I’d add much to the discussion already online a few weeks back. So I’ll put it this way:

Neither film will make my Top Five Super Hero Movies of all time. Right now, that list is made up of: Superman 1 and 2, Spider-man 2, Batman Begins, and Spider-man. They also won’t make my Bottom Five. That’s a murderer’s row (Batman and Robin, Superman 4, Captain America, Roger Corman’s Fantastic Four, and that Punisher movie with Dolph Lundgren).

Basically, they’re decent movies with some flaws and big shoes to fill. In Superman, Brandon Routh’s a great Clark Kent/Superman. The action sequences were fantastic. Kevin Spacey grew on me as the film went on. Kate Bosworth’s Lois was very mediocre. And the movie never made me forget how terrific the Superman films of the 70s were.

As for X-men, well, it was fun to see some of the other X-characters around (Kitty Pryde was sure cool), but this crammed too much story into one flick. Ian McKellen and Hugh Jackman had some good moments, but that doesn’t make a great film. And frankly, I never felt like the X-movies completely got it right. They were close, but not quite there. X-Men stories are at their best when they’re at their most character-driven. And the secondary conflict between Cyclops, the by the book Richie Cunningham of the super hero world, and Wolverine, the tough as nails and cool as all get out Fonzie, is key. Cyclops never had a shot in these movies, and so we never got a sense of these characters as a team.

I’m an old fogey in the comics world, anyway. To me, the perfect X-team is the one from the early 80s: by the book leader Cyclops, inspirational woman Storm, tough anti-hero Wolverine, comic relief and heart of the team Nightcrawler, coming of age hero Colossus, good girl novice Shadowcat, and bad girl gone good Rogue. Minus those characteristics, we missed something in those movies.

1) Sunstone Winery

Since the wife and I went up to SB this weekend, we had to take in some wine. We went back to our favorite Central Coast vineyard – The Blackjack Ranch Winery – and bought a case of fermented grape goodness. But we also went to this place, an organic winery with some of the best Syrah and Cabernet I’ve had in a good long time.

If you’re going to be around the Central Coast, you should really check this place out. More than just pouring out excellent glasses of wine to all takers, the folks at Sunstone really take the time to be educational. Steph and I learned a lot about how wine is made, what the benefits of different kinds of grapes are, and even how different scents and bouquets can really add to the appeal of a given wine.

Great place. Check it out here:

And while you’re at it, be sure to take a look at Blackjack Ranch:

Finally, before we close this posting out . . . Our Man in LA, in all his generosity, is giving you a bonus Top 1A, but it’s on a bit of a sad note.

Mickey Spillaine died yesterday. You probably know him as the goofball mystery writer who appeared in Bud Light commercials in the 80s. Or you’ve heard of his most famous creation, super-tough private eye Mike Hammer.

Hammer first appeared on the scene in the late 40s, and he inspired the creation of a lot of American detective fiction. With his tough guy, staccato delivery and lack of qualms about dispatching the bad guys, he became something of a model for the way ruthless heroes like Dirty Harry Callahan would walk and talk.

Consider this. In the first Hammer novel, I, THE JURY, our hero learns that the killer of his best war buddy is none other than a woman with whom he’s fallen in love. Hammer doesn’t hesitate. He fires his gun, hitting her with a gut shot exactly like the one she gave his pal.

“How could you?” she asks as her life slips away.

“It was easy,” Hammer replies, and we know that it was.

I’m not a huge Spillaine fan, but you can’t understate his importance to the genre. He kept mystery fiction going in the 40s and 50s, and inspired so much of the popular, hard boiled detective fiction. Novelist Max Allan Collins (creator of the Nate Heller series and writer of ROAD TO PERDITION) believes that Spillaine was the third most important mystery novelist of the 20th century, right after Hammett and Chandler, and right ahead of Robert Parker and Agatha Christie.

I’m not sure he’s exactly right – it’s pretty subjective, anyway – but he’s in the right ballpark. Mike Hammer was on TV, on radio, in novels and comic books. One of the early Hammer novels – KISS ME DEADLY – even inspired one of the great film noirs of all time, a movie that was to my mother’s generation what PULP FICTION was to mine.

In fact, if you like PULP FICTION and haven’t seen KISS ME DEADLY, do yourself a favor and check it out. You’ll see where Tarantino got the glowing light in the briefcase and so much of his tough guy patter. It’s a great film.

More to the point, I think Spillaine would have liked you checking it out to honor him. It’s just a cool gesture, if you ask me.

Monday, July 17, 2006


Believe it or not, it’s Our Man in LA!

If you’re looking at the post here on the blog, and you can’t believe your eyes, well, I understand. You’re thinking, “Our Man in LA doesn’t post on this blog anymore. He’s probably dead. Or probably part of one of those non-blogging cults so common out there on the left coast. He certainly doesn’t update the blog anymore. We haven’t heard word one about super-heroes, sporting events, or quirky slices of life in California.”

Then you’d probably mutter something to yourself about how I think I’m a big shot and how this always happens to people who leave middle America. I’ve heard it all before. Believe me, I have.

So here’s the skinny. Our Man in LA has been working crazy hours – both in his capacity as a fund raising agent for the YMCA of the USA and its International Y in Jerusalem (there’s kind of a war going on over there, which has busied up the calendar), and in his writer by night identity, where work continues apace on his new project and a couple of others are coming down the pike.

On top of that, it’s been extremely hot in LA (in the 90s, and don’t even get me started on the Valley) and so on and so forth. See what I mean? These excuses are meager. If I was reading this, I might believe that Our Man in LA was now part of a non-blogging cult and the excuses were just out there to throw you, the blog reader, off the truth.

So enough of the excuses. What I’ll give you instead are Our Man in LA’s patented reasons why you should be checking this space over the next few weeks:

1) Our Man and Woman in LA are running a marathon! Well, actually, not really. It’s a half marathon. But 13+ miles is still plenty impressive, and we’re doing it for a really good cause. If you haven’t checked it out yet, go to this site:

You’ll learn about why and how Our Woman in LA and I are logging a hundred or so miles over the next few weeks to raise a few funds for AIDS Project LA, a very worthy non-profit that provides services and care to people dealing with HIV and AIDS in Los Angeles. You might not know this, but LA has the second highest population of people dealing with HIV/AIDS in the nation. If all the Angelenos with the disease were brought together in one place, they could fill Dodger Stadium.

Our Woman in LA and I are working to raise $3800 by the first week in August. As of today, we’re about halfway there, but we could totally use your help. If you’ve already donated, thanks so much. If you haven’t, there’s still time to aid this very important cause. Just click the link above, and the website will tell you what to do.

Thanks for listening. Also, check back with Our Man in LA over the next couple of weeks, and I’ll take you through the grueling training sessions, the encounters with disgusting training foods like “Gu” and gels, and much, much more. Seriously, there’ll be more. Really. No, I’ll think of stuff.

And look, Our Woman in LA and I running this half marathon – in the happiest place on Earth, Disneyland – is only one reason to check back with the chronically late Our Man in LA. What else, you ask?

How about:

2) Our Man in LA is so committed to his readers that he will age one year this Wednesday!

That’s right. It’s no small thing, either. Living in LA where youth is king, Our Man in LA is actually willing to age for his readers. Not a stunt! This Wednesday, he’ll go from being a smart-assed 33-year-old with delusions of something to being a smart-assed 34-year-old with similar delusions!

Seriously, how many other bloggers are willing to age just for you, the reader – and not even on that cool a day. July 19 is just your average Wednesday. According to my wife’s Birthday Book, it’s the “Day of Controlled Movement.” How lame is that? Others born on this date include axe murderer Lizzie Borden. How crappy is that?

But I’m still aging – just for you. I could have picked a cool day for all this, but I want to give my readers something special.

3) A Tuesday Top Five. Coming tomorrow. Really. I already have it worked out.

4) A Wednesday Bottom One. Choosing one hasn’t been easy.

So buckle up, folks. Hold on to those hats. We’ve got to do something to pass the summer, so I might as well come back around and interrupt your workday.

See you tomorrow.

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