Monday, January 29, 2007


Our Stupid Country Monday!

Hey there, everyone. Hope everyone had a good weekend. Nothing like a little time away to appreciate all the . . . well, all the stupid things going on in our world.

Here's just a sample. It's from the news today, where in Miami, they're planning a party. For the Super Bowl, you ask. Uh, no, not quite.

That's right. A party for when Castro's dead. Because we're still fighting the Cold War. And we'll show those mean old communists. Honest we will.

Of course, they've been shown already. They gave up corruption and rule by the mafia for lackluster government services and the like. But a whole bunch of old guys in Miami are still steamed! And you never, ever get in the way of an old guy from Miami who's steamed.

Usually you don't have to. Just stay away from the Early Bird Special at Sizzler, and you're 90 percent of the way there.

Then there's this . . .

Yeah, see, we should have seen this coming. The radical Christian Right in this country - the very people who brought you Intelligent Design, the "theory" of global warming, Bush in the White House again, not to mention the battle against gay marriage and the battle for prayer in schools - well, they've struck again.

They don't want yoga taught in schools.

It crosses the line, they say. Because yoga's based on ideals set forth in the Hindu religion and because of those roots, it violates the line between church and state.

Never mind that this is the same brain trust who thinks the world is 6,000 years old. Or that yoga that's taught in schools could technically be called "stretching" and they'd never notice. Nope. They did it. Beat us at our own game again. Used our own weapons against us.

So no yoga for kids. In fact, no exercise of any kind - since we've cut physical education programs in this country but continue to spend billions on someone else's Civil War (while mostly ignorning people in Louisiana). But at least our kids won't be godless Hindu types with a lot of flexibility. No sir. What could be more American than a lack of activity and complete short-sightedness?

Beats me. Who's up for a little Castro Death Party?

Friday, January 26, 2007


It's just possible that one Patriot fan went too far . . .

Heard about this on the radio, and yes, I'm officially disturbed.

Not judging. Just disturbed. However you feel about your football team's QB is your business. I think Carson Palmer's fine. Anyhow, give it a listen:

It's pretty clear I won't be listening to any Kenny Rogers anytime soon, either.

Thursday, January 25, 2007



OK, we'll make this short.

Is it possible that this guy is the most horrible and obnoxious . . . thing that the Bush family has ever unleashed on our fine nation?

That's right, it's Billy Bush, host of TV's YOU'RE THE ONE THAT I WANT, where fools from all over the country compete to be publicly embarrassed as a couple of schlocky producers put together a Broadway re-launch of GREASE.

This guy - a cousin of our president, for God's sake - is the host of this schlock. He is - perish the thought - sort of Seacrest lite, which should be an oxymoron. But, well . . . this is what we're left with.

Now I know a lot of you folks out there expected me to make a political comment by opening with smack talk about those Texans from Kennebunkport. But no. Much as I'd like to take a swing at Dick Cheney or something, Billy Bush is honestly annoying me more this week.

Which is really just to say that Billy's on TV more. And Cheney's either in the woods hunting lawyers or in the secret bunker of the shadow government (which sounds like a great name for a video game).

I'd play it. Could shooting Billy be part of it?

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Took me a while, but I came up with a TUESDAY TOP FIVE

Back in college, I used to read THE DAILY NORTHWESTERN pretty regularly. It passed the time in, say, that geology class I took to fill my science requirement. I even worked there a while, and so I knew a lot of the people.

One thing that used to entertain my pals and me was when a new columnist at the Daily would write his or her weekly post about how hard it was to write a column. Classic prose, usually. And more or less an advertisement for, "I've got no idea what I should be talking about, so I'm going to bitch about having 18 inches devoted to my opinion." Or something like that.

Well, joke's on me. Had trouble coming up with my Top Five today. Had to do actual work at the office until something came to me. Heartbreaking, really.

But I came up with it, and here it is. In the more or less quick-hit version I'm trying to preserve in the blog in 2007.

5) DREAMGIRLS. Usually when Our Woman in LA tells me that it's time to go see a musical in the movie theater, I'm more than a little hesitant. Like a dog feels when it's "vet time." But I liked this. Good performances, good music, and a fun watch. The girl who got buzzed off American Idol can really sing. Eddie Murphy turns in a lot more than just the James Brown imitation I was expecting.

Good enough that I considered getting online and wikipedia'ing the show, Diana Ross, and all the old Motown stars - just to piece together which parts of the movie were true and false. That desire faded before I got home, but still a good movie.

4) Monday Night TV. I've talked about these shows separately, and so it's probably lame for me to even mention. But basically Monday night now offers me both 24 and STUDIO 60 ON THE SUNSET STRIP. Which means that one night a week, my television cup runneth over.

That is, if they get away from all the romance subplots on STUDIO 60 and get back to Matthew Perry and Bradley Whitford kvetching. If I have to see much more of those guys worrying about their love lives and juggling their "will they or won't they" romances, then I'll drop kick that show faster than LOST.

But for now, all good on Monday nights.

3) TALLADEGA NIGHTS. OK, this isn't news. I know it's on DVD now. I know Blockbuster has like a million copies of it. But it's funny - really, really freakin' funny.

Even though Our Woman in LA was reared in North Carolina, neither of us are NASCAR fans. But we are fans of the American id. We watched AMERICAN IDOL last week, after all. We've been to restaurants like Applebees and the Olive Garden. Not lately, but we've been there.

So the movie spoke to us. Or actually, sang to us. Sang to us like a drunken frat boy howling the lyrics of "Chains of Love" by Erasure to the Tri-Delt he's trying to take up . . . well, you get the picture.

Anyway, it's really funny.

2) Clive Owen as Philip Marlowe. Announced this week, VARIETY is reporting that Clive Owen, who turned down the James Bond franchise, is developing an adaptation of one of the novels from the late, extremely great Raymond Chandler and his noir detective Philip Marlowe.

Nobody seems to know which book or which short story. Doesn't really matter. You can count on mean streets, duplicitous dames, and the like. And just when the story runs out of steam, you can count on a guy stomping into the room with his gun drawn.

That's just how they write 'em in Chandler's world.

Yeah, I know Clive's British. I know Marlowe's a Santa Rosa kid walking down the mean streets of Los Angeles like some sort of tarnished angel. But I mean, look at the guy.

You're telling me that guy's never been punched in the face? That he wouldn't take Moose Malloy's money to look for little lost Velda? That he wouldn't play the Sternwood sisters against one another.

Face it, the guy's hard boiled.

1) A little bit of political happiness came my way this week. Which means, I'm about to say something liberal here. You might want to avert your eyes.

Last week, I posted a little ditty about Global Warming, and how maybe we should just get around to accepting that it exists.

Turns out, some scientists agree with me:

Oh yeah, and some CEOs - guys who probably sometimes make a buck from fossil fuels:

Now, normally at this point, I'd make a joke about the Glen Becks and others out there who think that Global Warming's caused by fall foliage or whatever. Who think evolution is a theory, gay marriage is an abomination, and that we really have to keep those Harry Potter books away from our kids.

But I'll save that. Who knows when I'll next have trouble posting a top five?

Monday, January 22, 2007


News, notes, celebrations and the like . . .

Howdy, folks. Our Man in LA here with a few items that struck my fancy over the weekend (and one thing worth celebrating).

First, the news.

* You might have heard that the NFL playoffs were going this weekend, and in fact, that the teams who won on Sunday would be playing each other in a little thing called the Super Bowl in just two short weeks. If you're wondering how you missed this little tidbit, well, uh . . . the answer is "I don't know."

Anyway, on the NFC side of the ball, the New Orleans Saints faced off at Soldier Field against the Chicago Bears, a team from our former hometown. The Bears, much to my surprise, won.

Now again, you might not have heard this (though I'm not sure why), but Chicago sports fans don't hold all their local teams in equal regard. And popularity is not commensurate with winning. The White Sox might have won the World Series a couple years back, but the Cubs are now and always will be a gazillion times more popular. Wrigley Field is sold out in September even if the team was mathematically eliminated in May. Comiskey (aka US Cellular Field) has ample parking, day or night, and good seats still available exactly . . . always.

Likewise, the Chicago Bulls won six championships in the 90s, but the die-hard Chicago fan would still rather talk about the '85 Bears, the last Chicago football team to win a Super Bowl. Also the first Chicago football team to win a Super Bowl. If you ever meet one of these 85 Bears fans, do yourself a favor. Forget that you like football. If possible, effect a foreign accent and grin like you don't understand when they use the following words: "Ditka"; "McMahon"; "Super Bowl Shuffle"; or "Monsters of the Midway."

It's this kind of rabid fandom that makes this story, ahem, not surprising at all:

Please note in the story the dateline. That's right - Palos Heights, Illinois. Setting of my film THE REST OF YOUR LIFE, and honestly, about as Suburban Chicago as any one place can get.

* While we're on the subject of football, congrats to the Indianapolis Colts. Glad they won. First, it saves us all from having to read even one more column about Peyton Manning not being able to win the big game. Second, it means that there will be some offense in the Super Bowl.

Third, it really must tick off those Baltimore Raven fans.

Heh, thanks, Peyton. This is the gift that keeps on giving.

* The Razzies - the Oscars of bad movies - were released today.

You can read about them here:

I'm happy to say that I missed out on just about everything nominated this year (though I did see Kate Bosworth as Lois Lane in SUPERMAN RETURNS). But as always, there are a few awards that make me snicker:

Worst Excuse for Family Entertainment (New Category!):
Deck the Halls
Garfield 2: A Tail of Two Kitties
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
The Shaggy Dog

And this one . . .

Worst Screen Couple:
Tim Allen & Martin Short, The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause
Nicolas Cage & His Bear Suit, Wicker Man
Hilary & Haylie Duff, Material Girls
Sharon Stone's Lopsided Breasts, Basic Instinct 2
Shawn Wayans and either Kerry Washington or Marlon Wayans, Little Man



It feels more than a little strange to have this following the Razzie Post, but it bears mentioning here. It's a personal note, so avert the eyes if you get weepy.

Today - January 22, 2007 - is the 7th anniversary of my first date with Our Woman in LA, my lovely bride Stephanie. A scant week after first meeting at The Last Act, a long-gone bar that used to be across from Second City, we went out for dinner (at LaDonna on the corner of Clark and Foster) and for drinks (Hop Leaf, same corner), and started something great.

I didn't know that my life was going to change after that first date, but it did. When you consider the fact that when I returned home that night, I found a comatose Rob Schumann passed out on the sofa after a particularly hearty Wrigleyville Pub Crawl, perhaps I should have been pining for my life to change.

At any rate, these have been without question, the best 7 years of my life, and they're just the beginning.

Happy anniversary, Steph.

Friday, January 19, 2007


What's a geek to do?

As a long-time, hard core comics guy, I've been pretty excited the last few years, as some of the best heroes, villains, and assorted sidekicks from the Marvel and DC Universes have made their way to the big screen and plasma screen alike. Super-heroes have been big business out here in LA, so much so that you can actually read comics and graphic novels in public without having to worry about someone seeing you do it.

On the contrary, out here they want to make sure you're not developing a super-hero that they haven't heard of yet

Mostly, the comics movies of the late 90s and early 00s have been decent. I liked the Spider-man films a lot; Batman Begins was amazing; and the X-Men films and Superman Returns were OK. It's a long, long way from the kind of dreck that we used to see.

Anyone remember SUPERMAN IV: QUEST FOR PEACE? Or the TV show NIGHT MAN?

But now Marvel Comics' armored hero IRON MAN is set to make it to the big screen, and I'm in a quandry. It's not out till 2008, but I don't know, folks. Should I bother?

Here's what has me all bothered:

* The film stars Robert Downey Jr. as corporate CEO/alcoholic turned super-hero Tony Stark/Iron Man. While Downey's without question a good actor, I previously took an ethical stand to not support him or the movies he's in. I usually try to be true to these ethical stands. As it is, I'm still not seeing movies with most of the cast of THE FAMILY STONE. Not to mention John Leguizamo.

I mean, seriously, does he look like Damon Bradley from ONLY YOU?

Never mind. I guess he does, a little.

Why the hate with Downey? Mostly because the guy got furloughs from prison when he was doing time for drug and gun charges. It's not that I don't think he's a good actor, it's that he got special treatment from the so-called system because he's a celebrity. If he had been getting out of jail to do PSAs for kids and malcontents.

But no. He was doing episodes of Ally McBeal. Not quite the same thing, is it?

And again, I wouldn't have hated the system for doing that - if they were willing to extend the same courtesy to a guy (or lady) who works the pickup window at Wendy's but who finds himself or herself in jail for the same drug and gun charges. If Dave Thomas (or his heirs) were calling, and the court would let someone out to give you a large Frosty, then Downey's forgiven.
Wait, what? They're not doing that for the Frosty guy? They're not? Really?

Well, then, the ethical stand is still there.
* Compounding matters is that the female lead in this thing has just been cast. It's Gwyneth Paltrow. I don't have an ethical stand when it comes to Gwyneth, but I do view her inclusion as a strike against a film.

But how can you say that, Wieland?

Easy. I saw BOUNCE and RUNNING WITH SCISSORS. In the theater. And while I liked Paltrow in SHAKESPEARE IN LOVE, SE7EN, and a few other flicks, I just have some trepidation.

* And yet here's the other side of the argument. Big fan of co-star Terrence Howard, who's playing Iron Man's buddy Jim Rhodes. Those comic fans out there will remember Rhodes even became Iron Man for a while in the books while Stark (the character played by Downey) was on a bender. Howard's great, so that probably undoes my lingering Paltrow worries.

I'm also a really big fan of director Jon Favreau. I've liked all his work so far as both an actor and director, and it's no stretch to say he was the best part of his previous Marvel Comics film. Yeah, that was DAREDEVIL. Notice how I didn't mention DAREDEVIL in the good comics movies above?

* Final complication. I just don't know if I think Iron Man will make a good movie. A drunk rich guy without the intensity of Bruce Wayne, who flies around in an expensive piece of military armor and fights a stereotypical Asian villain called The Mandarin.

That's right. The Mandarin.

So I'm stumped. Anyway, here's some information about the movie:

Why can't it just be an easy decision, like whether I'll go see Nic Cage in GHOST RIDER.

Wow, that does not look good.

Thursday, January 18, 2007


Feel my head. Am I globally warm?

In case you guys have missed out on the news over the last few weeks (or been marveling at the amazing talents of AMERICAN IDOL contestants in Seattle and Minneapolis), there have been a few interesting developments. Namely:

* It snowed in Malibu.

* It snowed so bad in Texas that they shut down Interstate 10 south of San Antonio.

* It's not snowing in Switzerland, where people generally go to ski.

* The American Northeast and Midwest had their warmest winters in recent history.

* Polar ice caps and Greenland: Still melting.

So OK, can we finally admit that something strange is going on, weather-wise? Is it possible that global warming and the horrifying effects of pollution on our environment aren't just crazy "theories" (you know, like evolution)? Isn't it maybe time that we just accepted it?

I know, I know. I'm a crazy liberal. I live in California. My wife and I like the arts, Mac computers, hybrid cars, and liberal causes. Yes, we acknowledge that Al Gore was a terrible candidate for President, probably didn't invent the Internet, and probably wasn't the inspiration for Erich Segal's LOVE STORY (and honestly, would you want to be? Have you seen or read LOVE STORY?).

But that doesn't mean he's always wrong! No, Glenn Beck, Global Warming's not a "natural process." Come on.

Tell you what. If we can just agree on this and start working on our environment, I'll keep all my snotty comments about the LEFT BEHIND series to myself. Deal? I won't even challenge anyone on Intelligent Design, or scoff at the people who waste their time protesting gay marriage.

I will include a link to this cartoon in my blog. But I'm not made of stone . . .


Wednesday, January 17, 2007


The Wednesday Bottom One . . . And Man, is it low

The picture really says it all, doesn't it?

Last night, Our Woman in LA and I watched the season premiere of AMERICAN IDOL, a show we both don't much like but can't turn away from. Like a 16-car pile-up on the Interstate.

And there's no question, it had to be my Wednesday Bottom One.

I don't know what it is that I found most troubling about last night. Was it:

* Simon's creepy catchphrase "You're through, kid!" to prospective female idols, said with a tone that can only be described as the way pornographers sound when they lead teenage runaways to the casting couch?

* Randy's incessant use of the word "dog" as a term of endearment?

* Paula's haze from one too many appletinis the night before?

* The sad state of America when our citizens will drop everything resembling any kind of dignity just for the slim chance of getting on national television? That they'll face the kind of humiliation that usually passes for torture in other countries so that they can be derided at work or at school the next day?

* The kid in this picture, who's a singer, dancer and juggler?

* That poor, sad girl who imitates the Lion from Wizard of Oz? I mean, reallly, dude.

* Or is it master of schlocky ceremonies Ryan Seacrest, who tries to pretend that he's sensitive to the plight of pimply 16-year-olds who just had their egos demolished by the three judges, and who are crying on national TV, making it almost a lock that they will be beaten and swirlied at the high school on Monday? And meanwhile, Seacrest can barely keep from laughing?

It's a hard thing to pick. I'm going with Seacrest for now.

So . . . who's watching tonight?

Tuesday, January 16, 2007


Back from the weekend, and back to the regular TUESDAY TOP FIVE!

Howdy, folks. Our Man in LA here, back with our normal Tuesday feature, a little thing that we like to call the Tuesday Top Five. I think you know the drill. And if you don’t, I’m pretty sure you can catch on.

Pursuant to a New Year’s Resolution to make this year’s blog entries shorter and more plentiful, we’re going to see if we can’t kick this Top Five out quickly and with only a smattering of words. Let’s be honest, some of my posts are long enough to qualify as chapters in epic Russian novels – albeit without names that you can’t pronounce.

So away we go!

5) THE THIEF OF TIME by Tony Hillerman. If you haven’t heard yet (or read the blog recently), the wife and I spent some vacation time this year in Sedona and northern Arizona. We even spent part of a day on the mammoth Navajo reservation that spills out from Arizona and into Utah, Colorado, and New Mexico. Seeing it for real got me interested in checking out Tony Hillerman’s mystery/thriller novels set against the very same reservation, and starring his detective protagonists Joe Leaphorn and Jim Chee.

This is the one I got to first. It’s fantastic. Moves really fast and incorporates an interesting blend of Navajo tradition, modern police work, and even archaeology and myth. I’m on to a second one now. Check it out.

4) Café Los Feliz on Hillhurst just north of Avocado. Another swell place for a meal, just stumbling distance from Casa del Wieland. Steph and I came across this place the week before Christmas, and we’ve been back a couple of times since. It’s a small storefront with some outdoor seating (although with the cold snap out here, nobody’s outside). Good food, family owned, and a fun atmosphere.

I could go on and on about the things I’ve had there. A really good hummus with homemade pita. Excellent soups. But best of all, probably the best homemade French roll I’ve ever tasted. Amazing.


Everyone knows that I’m a comics guy, and that among my all-time favorites is the original Captain Marvel. You know the story. By day, he’s a little kid named Billy Batson. But when he says the magic word SHAZAM, he’s transformed into the world’s mightiest mortal – a hero with the wisdom of Solomon, strength of Hercules, stamina of Atlas, power of Zeus, courage of Achilles, and speed of Mercury.

Don’t know why I love this guy as much as I do. Maybe it’s the fact that I was him for Halloween when I was five. Maybe it’s the fact that he’s sort of a comic book Harry Potter. Either way, I do love him. And so do a lot of fans – fact is, in the 40s, he was even more popular than Superman before Big Blue’s lawyers came along and claimed that Cap was too similar to the Kryptonian Kid.

After DC Comics shut Cap down, though, they bought him. And in the 70s, they brought him back to newsstands with a fun (if a bit silly) comic called SHAZAM! This volume – just $17 – collects the first 33 issues, and it’s totally worth it.

2) The Baltimore Ravens lost. That’s right, lost. And I’m just cackling with glee over it. And if there’s justice, they’ll just keep losing next year, too.

You see, if you were reading the sports pages last week, you heard how the terrifying and mighty Ravens were going to grind the bones of the lowly Indianapolis Colts for their bread. They would have their way with them, get medieval on them, and all of that.

And it would have worked, too, if not for Peyton Manning playing the part of Scooby Doo and the Indy defense playing those meddling kids!

Why the hate between Baltimore and Indy? Well, because in the 1980s, the Colts franchise moved in the middle of the night to Indianapolis, breaking the hearts of the fans there.

And then – because all those Baltimore fans are really so stout of heart, so forthright, so true, and so deserving – they turned around and stole the Browns franchise from the folks in Cleveland. Cleveland fans, of course, were just as loyal if not more so. They were just as heartbroken.

But man, those folks in Baltimore really wanted a team that bad. So it didn’t matter how they got it. No matter what they’d been through.

Here’s the thing. I’m not really a Browns fan. I’m from Ohio, but much closer to Cincinnati. So I’m a Bengals fan. This isn’t about that. It’s about how much I detest people and organizations who can’t self-examine. So Baltimore’s going to beat up on Indy because Indy stole their team? And the Baltimore team itself was stolen from Cleveland?

Hmmm. Sticky.

I know that we live in an era where mid-sized cities think that they need to have a pro team to prove that they’re a major part of the American fabric. I know the people of Baltimore really wanted some sort of compensation.

I also know that at Wrigley Field in Chicago, when an opposing team hits a home run, the Cub fans in the bleachers throw the ball back onto the field. Usually catching a ball like that is great, a keepsake, something to show the friends. But if you’re a Cub fan, you don’t want someone else’s ball. You send it back.

Which is exactly what the people of Baltimore should have done when Art Modell offered up the Cleveland Browns. Thrown it back.

And since they didn’t, I sure hope they keep losing next year and for years to come.

1) 24. Jack Bauer is back, and as a result, Our Woman in LA and I are hooked on the television heroin that is 24. Sure it strains credibility. Sure, in just four hours (following a period of two years of brutal torture by the Chinese government), Jack has gotten off a plane from China, cleaned himself up, been tortured, escaped, killed a couple of terrorists, outmaneuvered an air strike to save a key ally, led a gun battle against another terrorist, and basically kept himself two steps ahead of the U.S. Government.

Silly? Maybe. But he’s Jack. And he DOESN’T HAVE TIME to argue about how realistic it is!

I mean, the guy hasn’t even had a glass of water yet.

Who am I to argue, though. Birds got fly, Jack’s got to save the world.


Saturday, January 13, 2007


One final lesson, and it's tasty . . .

It's not very often that Our Man in LA does a Saturday post for the old blog, but then again 1) it's not very often that he gets a three-day weekend; and 2) it's not very often that he returns from a good, long vacation to impart the lessons learned from time spent all over this great land of ours.

Which brings me to something very, very important. And it's this:


That's right. Cactus. In case you wondered how cowpokes and Native Americans fed themselves in the old west, there you have it.

It's not bad, either. Kind of like asparagus with a slightly sour aftertaste. Certainly not anything to be afraid of, or to get squinty about - like the Man with No Name.

I mean, seriously, that guy could use some cactus.

Our first night in Sedona, Steph and I headed out to the Cowboy Club, one of the restaurants on the tourist-friendly strip. Pretty good bar and grille food, all things considered, and a decent selection of Arizona microbrews.

Now, at the Cowboy Club, they have the usual pub grub, but also a decent selection of local fare. Namely, buffalo steaks and burgers, some items derived from ostrich, a plate of snake skewers (rattlesnake and the like), and, of course, cactus.

I got the cactus mostly because Our Woman in LA did not like the idea of something that slithers being on our table. Even if it is dead and deep-fried. Ahh, something for the next visit.

Do I wish the cactus hadn't been deep-fried? Sure, then I could have gotten a better sense of the taste without removing battery layer upon battery layer. On the other hand, I'm no chef. Perhaps grilled cactus doesn't taste right. And perhaps a sauteed cactus has to be prepared with a certain kind of red sand.

Doesn't matter, really. I liked it. I'd do it again. But I have to save room. For the rattler.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Friday, January 12, 2007


Shhhhh! Healing's in process . . . and that's the lesson

Our Man in LA's Lesson #2 also comes from the magical land of his recent vacation - beautiful Sedona, Arizona.

And basically, it's this:


So one of the things that I'd heard about Sedona was that if you'd hike amongst the red rocks, you'd come to these areas - these vortexes - and you'd feel a certain kind of energy. Nobody could really describe it.

Maybe your hands would tingle, they'd say.

Maybe you'd just start tearing up, crying unexpectedly.

Could be almost anything, they'd say. And most importantly, there was the disclaimer: "You're only really going to feel the power of the healing vortexes if you're particularly sensitive to psychic phenomena and things outside the five major senses."

So I figured, really, no chance that I'm going to feel anything different. After all, I don't see dead people. I don't think I believe in reincarnation except in comic books. I thought CHARIOT OF THE GODS was a fun read, but . . .

But whatever. I still had to take a look.

So while we're climbing up Cathedral Rock, we're seeing signs that look like this one:

And I'm thinking, "OK, cute. It's a nice touch. But I'm not feeling anything."

Our Woman in LA, on the other hand, felt tingling sensations, found her breath being taken away. Most of those feelings came when we passed little man-made piles of rocks like this one:

Turns out, there's a reason for that. Hikers over the years have piled those rocks to mark the vortexes where they've felt the most extra-sensory energy. So if you see something like that, you know you're in the presense of somebody's mojo juju.

On Cathedral Rock, I found myself inspired and occasionally out of breath - but only from the climb and the rocks. On our second hike - around Bell Rock and Courthouse Rock, I reacted differently.

Between the two, I passed one of those rock piles. I was looking up at Courthouse Rock, just having come up from a dried river bed. I felt . . . something. The hands tingled a little bit, but no shortness of breath. Mostly I just got lost for a second (or maybe longer) in the giant rock itself and the desert around it. I just stood and stared into the space around me. Pretty zen, actually. Like being awed by the size of the world and of existence.

And then the moment passed, but I hesitated a little before leaving the spot.

So I guess that means I have a little sensitivity outside those big, old-fashioned five senses. Does it mean that I'm ready to leave LA and go to work in one the Metaphysical Mall in Sedona (a real place, don't laugh)?

Well, probably not.

Does it mean that I'm psychically in tune with the rest of the universe and that the FBI will soon be hiring me to find kidnapped children?

We'll see. That does sound pretty cool, though. Till then, we'll always have the vortexes.

Thursday, January 11, 2007


Our Man in LA spies some entertainment

So here we are again, back for lesson 3 of Our Man in LA's long vacation from blogging. Like yesterday, this is kind of a fun one.

Let me set the stage. I'm back in Chicago for work in December, grabbing sushi with the Newton-Finches and the Rolnicks in Andersonville. As we always do, we start talking movies. Reggie and Sarah have seen CASINO ROYALE. They loved it.

"It's not heresy to talk about it in the same breath as GOLDFINGER," Reggie says. And I scoff. Which brings me to the entertainment section of these here lessons, and a big, fun LESSON #3.

Mainly this: It might be Jack Bauer's world, but James Bond is still pretty freakin' cool.

Or maybe that's cool again. See, I've been a big Bond fan since way back. Read all the Ian Fleming and John Gardner novels in junior high. Suffered through the dregs of the Roger Moore and Tim Dalton eras. Pondered questions like, "Seriously, which was more lame - A VIEW TO A KILL, MOONRAKER, or LICENSE TO KILL?"

Not an easy question to answer. MOONRAKER'S easy to diss, with the space travel and all, but the other two are currently playing at a Multiplex in the Third Circle of Hell.

I mean, did you guys see this one? Yeah, that's Grace Jones.

Even bringing Pierce Brosnan to the series wasn't enough. I started to wonder if James was past his prime. Do we really believe in British Secret Agents anymore? You know, if you're not searching for Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, that is?

But worse for Her Majesty's Favorite Secret Service Agent, in the new century, I've been getting my spy thrills from the super-cool CTU on TV's 24.

And no matter how hard Brosnan worked in movies like THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH and GOLDENEYE, the plots there seemed lamer, less real, less intense and fun to watch. Sure, 24 might strain credibility sometimes, but didn't one of the recent Bond movies feature Denise Richards as a rocket scientist?

Plus, Jack Bauer and Tony Almeda on 24 might not be able to save the world by themselves . . . but I'm pretty sure that they could shake and stir James Bond and Felix Lieter from Monte Carlo to Montenegro.

Jack Bauer. Maybe he could kick Bond's ass, but he DOESN'T HAVE TIME! HE'S GOT TO SAVE AUDREY! AND HIS DAUGHTER! CHLOE, ARE YOU ON THE LINE!

Or so I thought. Then I saw CASINO ROYALE.

And here's the thing. Reggie was right. It is super cool. The best Bond movie in decades. Great set pieces, great plotting, hot Bond girls, and real acting by the lead. Acting! In a Bond movie!

Not just that. Daniel Craig actually plays 007 as tough enough to live in Jack Bauer's world. Who'd have thunk it? This isn't just some lapdog from Tony Blair's England, no sire. The new Bond is tough, cool, and a man on a mission.

Just the way he ought to be.

So if you haven't seen CASINO ROYALE, do. I know it's been out since Thanksgiving, so it might not even still be playing in your town. Get the DVD. It's that cool.

How cool? Cool enough that I'm not embarrassed to know trivia about Agent 007. Stuff from the books like:

* That Bond's not really British. Nope. His dad was Scottish, his Mom Swiss. He was orphaned as a pre-teen, flunked out of the prep schools in England, and ended up in the military.

* His birthdate. According to the books (mostly written in the 50s and 60s), November 20, 1920 or 1924.

* That he's got a kid. His baby mama is Kissy Suzuki, the main Bond girl from YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE.

Stuff like that. Usually I keep my perfect trivia recall under wraps. But now that Bond is cool again, what the hey?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


Another day, another lesson . . . with interesting results

For those of you who thought I couldn't blog two days in a row, who figured that I wouldn't have five full lessons as promised, well, I have this to say:


That's right. It's lesson #4! The joke's on you, baby! Our Man in LA is ready to share his learned wisdom again!

All right, I'll get on with it.

4. SOMETIMES IT PAYS TO TAKE THE HARDER PATH. This is a much more fun lesson.

As many of you know, Our Woman in LA and I took a much-needed vacation over the holidays to Arizona, where we saw the Grand Canyon and the Red Rocks of Sedona, stayed in a spa, visited the Navajo reservation, and generally just got away from it all.

Christmas Day in Arizona, most everything was closed. So we figured it to be as good a time as any to hike around the gorgeous rock formations and canyons that surround Sedona. But we're city folk, my lady and me, and so we wanted to make sure that we did something well within our ability. We bought a book about the various hiking trails, and selected the two easiest ones. We conferred with the Concierge (whose name was Lars) at the spa to see if they really were the easiest. They were.

So we headed to the first hike, called Cathedral Rock. It looks like this:

Beautiful, right? So Our Woman in LA and I were psyched. A great Christmas day hike around one of Arizona's most beautiful red rock formations. Healing vortexes, for God's sake!

So we got there. A few people milled about, starting out on the Cathedral Rock Trail. Being city folk, Steph and I felt that we were new to this hiking biz. So we followed them. What harm could there be, right?

In fact, here's a pic of us right at the base of the rock, getting started.

This'll be great, we figured. A nice, easy hike. And it was. For about 10 minutes.

Then it started to get steep.

And then steeper.

And then it pretty much required you to scale a freakin', frackin' rock wall.

At this point, being the City Slickers that we are, the wife and I considered turning back. "I don't see how this can be the easiest trail," Steph said.

"I could really use a latte," I agreed.

So we were going to turn around. And that's when the old guy came along.

Picture this. An old man. Wearing an Arizona Diamondbacks cap and a tattered khaki trench coat. Grizzly Adams beard. Grande cup of coffee in one hand. Traveling with his dog.

Then picture him walking right by us, with the dog, and climbing the sheer rock wall.

"Well, now I've got to do it," Our Woman in LA said. "But let's watch how the dog does it." And so we did.

Here are a couple of pics. When you get to the top of Cathedral Rock, the view is incredible. And it really is sort of like being inside a church. Quiet and serene.

Now, it bears mentioning that once we came down the rock and got back in our car, we took a look at the guidebook. After all, we were heading to Bell Rock afterwards, and we needed to get the dirt on that hike. And that's when we learned that we hadn't done the "easy" hike at Cathedral Rock.

Nope. That's just a stroll around the base of the rock, with a view of a cute little stream.

Climbing Cathedral Rock's not even in the "Red Rocks for Dummies" book that we'd been looking at. We'd actually bitten off way, way more than we should have been able to chew.

But therein lies lesson #4. If we hadn't taken the difficult trail, we wouldn't have climbed to the top. We wouldn't have been humiliated by the old guy and his dog, but we also wouldn't have seen the views and been able to tell everyone that we climbed the damn thing.

"Pretty cool, isn't it, baby?" I asked Steph after we were done. "We're like real hikers now. We climbed a rock. We're not such city slickers after all."

Alas, wrong again. You can take the girl out of the city, but . . .

"How's my hair look?" Steph said. "You know, after the climb?"

Tuesday, January 09, 2007


Back for another year, with lessons to learn . . .

Greetings and salutations, everyone. After a long vacation from my bloggy home, Our Man in LA finds himself back home in the electronic ether, ready for another go-around.

I realize it's been a while, and I know it's Tuesday - which would normally mean an old-fashioned TOP FIVE coming right at you. But, to be honest, I'm not feeling a top five of anything right now. Bad football mojo last night and extended hangover from the holidays has left me bereft of the usual bon mots. So I'm going to do the next best thing to one of those long-awaited TOP FIVEs.

It's . . . The Annual Top Five Things I've Learned over the last month or so. Lame title, I grant you. We're working on it. Send in your recommendations.

I should also mention that I'm going to do a lesson a day here, just to get things started. I've been away awhile, I need to ease back in. Plus, I'm thinking of you, the reader. Do you really want a stupid long post on the first day? No, sir.

Also, it's worth noting that while a normal Top Five only references things that are good, A LEARNING TOP FIVE can reflect all manner of lessons - good, painful, annoying, interesting, the list just goes on.

To wit, Lesson #5:


See what I mean? A good example of a not-so-fun lesson, learned totally the hard way over the last week or so. As an Ohio kid and a Northwestern grad, I've always been a Big Ten guy. I root for my teams (Buckeyes and Wildcats) through the season, and then usually, for the entire conference come bowl season.

OK, I don't always root for the whole conference. I wasn't about to cheer Iowa over Texas this year, but certainly you folks can understand that. I'm a Texas grad. I have a diploma from there and everything. And a shirt. And a cap. And last year's Rose Bowl taking up space on the TIVO. You get the picture.

But look, when I moved out west, I scoffed at these Big 12 fans and Pac 10 boosters. Certainly their conferences were soft. Certainly they had no conception of real football. Fools, they were. Bureaucratic fools.

And SEC fans were worse. I'd tell them that, but then there'd be this whole incident with a gun rack and everything.

Or so I thought. Yeah. Not so much.

Just ask this guy.

As you might have heard, during bowl season, the Big Ten got more or less destroyed. Florida completely embarrassed Ohio State in the national championship game last night. USC did the same to Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Sure, Wisconsin won, but Purdue and Iowa were sent packing. Minnesota lost so bad that they fired their coach. And Notre Dame, which most of the country thinks is part of the Big Ten, got shelled worse than . . . I can't really think of an apt war metaphor, so you get the picture.

OK, Penn State and Wisconsin won. But Penn State shouldn't even be in the conference.

Anyhow, you get the point. Disaster. Big Ten football is a suckfest. One more blow to feelings of Midwestern superiority. Well, wait until . . . no, we're going to lose in basketball season, too.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Sneak Preview from Our Woman in L.A........

Here's the "trailer" to the much anticipated return of Our Man in L.A.'s blog writing.

What has kept him from his writing? Where in the world is Our Man in L.A.? The answer:

He's been to Sedona and the Red Rocks, the Grand Canyon, the Navajo Reservation; driven through the desert; eaten fried cactus; hiked up a huge rocks; visited metaphysical stores; and seen healing vortexes.

Most recently he was seen in Dayton, Ohio.

You don't believe me? Okay, here are a few pictures to prove it.........

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