Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"For Rent" Signs On the Rise

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you've probably noticed the large number of "For Rent" signs that have gone up in Los Angeles during the past few weeks. I'm reminded of the mass exodus that occurred after September 11, 2001, when the economy tanked and people started re-evaluating their career paths and lives in general.

It's not surprising that renters are moving to cheaper apartments or leaving Los Angeles altogether -- a suffering economy always hits areas with higher costs of living harder. After all, it's one thing to live the life of a "starving artist" when the economy is good, but when none of your friends can find work and you can't even afford the occasional dinner out, the Hollywood dream begins to look a little dingy.

And let's face it, Los Angeles can represent American excess at its worst. From this week's hot, new starlet dining at The Ivy to Playboy bunnies shopping at The Beverly Center, we're often surrounded by what seems like undeserved financial success coupled with a complete lack of restraint. Which only makes being unemployed or underemployed all the more disheartening.

But don't move back in with the parents just yet. Remember, Hollywood created the rags to riches story -- and it wasn't just a screenplay. In Los Angeles, today's filmmaker struggling to make rent is tomorrow's Hollywood Hills blockbuster producer. And the great thing about living here? Those transformations happen every day.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Los Angeles: Land of the Future Part I

If Jules Verne or H.G Wells where alive today, not only would they be really old I'd say they'd be living in Los Angeles and working as screenwriters. Or at least they'd be trying to work as screenwriters. These men were not only masterful fiction writers ahead of their time, and the fathers of sci-fi writing, they were much more than that. They were futurists.

Their 19th century visions of flying machines, space travel and nuclear power set the stage for the digital age we live in today, thanks to those soon-to-be artists, engineers and scientists who were sent to bed with visions of their future worlds in their heads. Like Gene Rodenberry of Star Trek fame or for my generation George Lucas (70's Lucas mind you) it takes a creative mind without limitations to envision not only a world filled with advanced gizmos but a world filled with advanced people as well.

In the future ( yes I know Star Wars takes place " a long long time ago") people will be smarter, healthier and their dreams will improve upon the dreams of the past. It's easy for you and I to envision superhuman cloning or a telephone in pill form because both of those ideas are built upon something we already know about. But what comes next after every technological toy is too small to see and is cheaper than gum?

What comes next may not be as cinematic as a jet-pack or a laser blaster but what I can guarantee you is that somewhere, right now, some creative nut/genius is breathing life into our future via that wonderful time machine that we call fiction. The past is prologue as they say. Here's to the future.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

More Prop 8 Protests Planned for Today

Outraged by the passage of California's Proposition 8 -- which eliminated the right of same-sex couples to marry -- gays, lesbians and their supporters have taken to the streets in protest over the last few days. They've already rallied in West Hollywood, outside the Federal Building in Westwood and in front of the Mormon Temple in West Los Angeles. (Mormons contributed about 45% of the funds used to promote Prop 8, so they are an understandable target).

Today, "No On 8" protests will be happening in Silverlake near the intersection of Santa Monica and Sunset boulevards. Since it's the weekend, I imagine there will be a lot more people attending than the previous weekday rallies, which still were able to draw hundreds if not a few thousand protesters. Thus, if you're heading to Silverlake today, you might want to reconsider since traffic will be a nightmare. Unless, of course, you want to join them in protesting this un-American elimination of basic civil rights and creation of an unequal sub-class of people in our great state of California!

Santa Ana Winds Bring Heat, Allergies

For those of you wondering where this recent heat spell came from, look to the east. The famous Santa Ana winds have arrived in town, blowing in from the desert to wreak havoc with our cool fall temps and our noses. If you suffer from outdoor allergies, you may have noticed that you've felt a little stuffed-up as of late, probably from all of the gunk that the Santa Ana's are carrying in from areas outside the city.

Thankfully, they usually only last for a couple of weeks. Here's hoping that crisp Autumn weather returns before the end of November -- my long sleeve shirts and sweaters are getting pretty lonely in my closet!

Friday, October 31, 2008

Hanging Sarah Palin Dummy Goes Up Then Down in WeHo

Last week when I was heading over to The Grove for a movie, I noticed a female dummy hanging from the eave of a house in West Hollywood. Because I was driving, I didn't notice that it was supposed to be Sarah Palin, I thought it was just a Halloween decoration (which according to the homeowners, it was). Needless to say I was surprised to see national newspaper articles pop up about it shortly after.

Since then, news helicopters have been circling overhead day-in and day-out, trying to get shots of the "effigy". There hasn't been this much media presence in my neighborhood since Michael Richards used the "N" word at The Laugh Factory. With all of the negative publicity, it's no wonder that the mayor of West Hollywood asked the home's owners to take it down, which they did this week. So long, Sarah!

Friday, October 24, 2008

Thoughts on Living in Los Angeles 13 Years On

A truncated Hollywood tale:

I always knew I’d move to Hollywood and do... something here. I didn’t have the courage to move for years, not because I was afraid my dreams would be dashed, but afraid that my dreams would come true. They have, they will, they are still.

I put it off for as long as I could and then I told myself I would visit for only four days, flopping on a friend of a friends couch in the deepest corner of the Valley – nowhere near Hollywood. I imagined a Get-Shorty-like world filled with colorful and dangerous characters and I found just that. Colorful and wonderful characters in real life, but whose goal it was not to be a gangster for real but to play one in a movie or maybe to write that movie someday. The Los Angeles I know is the one of the movies, the picture business, and those who think like I do respect the past of this city while at the same time are trying to make the next big thing. Or at least be a part of the next big thing to be.

My four day exploratory (I called it a recon) to Hollywood has since lasted thirteen wonderful years as of this month. In that time I’ve gone from an angry youngster with $500 in their pocket, a half-formulated dream and some talent, to a person who has traveled the world and seen and done things others merely read about in magazines. And I’ve been lucky enough to see my name up on the screen a few times too. My reward for making that leap of faith years ago is not one of financial wealth, as of yet, but the prize I now hold dear is that I am now a person who's life in hindsight, and currently, inspires me like no movie ever has. It inspires me to continue to do great things and has reminded me of all those reasons I came here so long ago.

I wish you great luck in all your endeavors here in this magical and difficult place. May that wonderful and scary energy that comes from the creative drive be with you all your years here. Hurray for Hollywood!

West Hollywood Halloween Carnaval

Halloween is only a week away, and if you're looking for something to do on the spookiest night of the year, there are plenty of events, haunted houses and parties to attend. But my favorite Halloween event is still the West Hollywood Carnaval, where you'll see some of the most amazingly creative and intricate costumes in the world.

Located on Santa Monica Boulevard from 6 pm to 11 pm on October 31, the West Hollywood costume extravaganza will attract hundreds of thousands of people. If you want to show off the costume you've been working on since last year, or simply want to be blown away by others' superb costumes, West Hollywood is the place to be on Halloween night. There will be live music on several stages, tons of yummy food to eat and, of course, lots of people watching to do.

Because of the warm weather in Los Angeles this time of year, you should expect to see many racy and barely-there costumes that might not be appropriate for young kids. But there are plenty of other events in West Hollywood for the little ones including the Halloween Youth Carnival on Saturday, October 25 and the Annual Doggy Costume Contest on Sunday, October 26. For more information on all of the events that make up Carnaval week, check out the West Hollywood website. You'll also find information on parking and street closures related to the events.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

So You're Moving to Los Angeles

Welcome to your new permanent home.

I choose not to say "home of choice" because most of you came here out of what feels like a calling. It is. As it was for us all. Sounds spooky but it's true. Brothers and sisters I encourage you to aspire to your greatest dreams and do the hard and honest work that it takes. Hopefully some day you will inspire the world.

I know you. You'd like to give something back for all those wonderful moments you had in that dark theatre, transported to that wonderful world where everything is as it should be ( even when it's not) and the story wraps up in flawless three act structure. Life is also in three acts, in hindsight that is. So, lets count your first day in L.A as the second half of ACT I, of the Three Acts that make up your entire life. Proceed from here with a Buddha-like smile and a flat-belly full of confidence. Always be making something, writing something. Do your due diligence just like a "normal" person. It's the only thing "normal" that is expected of you, so count yourself lucky you're not an 19th century coal miner and proceed to greatness.

Nurture your talent and make good friends you can rely upon. Always keep up the momentum, yourself healthy and above all -- remember to love someone, not just your aspirations. Now that you're on the path all the secrets of the Great and Terrible Oz are visible to you. The movies may never inspire you in the same way now that you can see the seams but don't fret. There is a payoff. True love. While revenge is a great motivator for creative success true love allows you to share yourself and your dreams with someone. Without that love, now that the clockwork of movie magic is laid bare before you, who will inspire you now? With a bit of luck, constant work and the support of countless others, you too can make a life here.

Always remember though, just being here does not count as following your creative dream. Common mistake. Try to avoid it and those that don't above all.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Saturday Night at Greenblatt's

I stopped into Greenblatt's Deli last night to pick up some beverages and dessert, and while I was waiting at the counter for my gooey chocolate chip cookie, Janeane Garofalo came in the front door with some friends. As a fan of her standup comedy, I thought it was a pretty good celebrity sighting.

This isn't the first time I've seen a celeb at Greenblatt's, which is located at the base of the Hollywood Hills and next door to The Laugh Factory. With its full service deli, fabulous wine shop and cool, friendly wait staff, Greenblatt's is a popular stop for actors, comedians and musicians who frequent the Sunset Strip or live in Laurel Canyon.

Their menu includes most of your standard deli fare, done very authentically at an affordable price compared to other Los Angeles delis like Jerry's. Settle into a booth for a relaxed evening with a cheese plate and bottle of wine recommended by their knowledgable servers. Or swing by after hitting some bars for a hearty BBQ rib dinner or classic grilled cheese with tomatoes.

Greenblatt's is open from 9 am to 2 am, 365 days of the year, so you can stop in at almost any time to eat, place an order "to go" or stock up on soda, beer, liquor or wine. They also offer delivery, which makes them a very popular choice for catering parties in the Hills.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Fall Weather Arrives in Los Angeles

Fall may have officially begun a few weeks ago, but the weather is just catching up. It was so nice to wake up this morning to cool, crisp air and no trace of the searing sun we've been living under recently. Two days a week I work out of an office in North Hollywood, where it's regularly been reaching triple digit temperatures. Driving to work, I've achieved a ridiculous tan on my left arm, which I typically hang out my car window (when I'm trying to save gas by not running the AC). But today, temps topped out around 70 degrees, prompting me to officially switch over to my fall wardrobe.

It looks like temps will increase in the coming days, but they're not expected to exceed 85 degrees, which is a nice reprieve from the exceedingly hot weather we've had of late. Though I love the hot desert heat we get in Los Angeles during the summer months, this east-coaster still appreciates the change in seasons.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

High Speed Train from L.A. to San Francisco?

On November 4, Californian's will vote on Proposition 1A, which would allow the state to sell about $10 billion in bonds to pay for a high-speed passenger train. The train would link cities like Los Angeles, San Francisco, Sacramento and San Diego.

Now, we don't know if the bill will pass or even if the rail line will be built even if it does (since the total cost of the project is well above the amount Proposition 1A authorizes). But how fantastic would it be if we could hop on a train in downtown Los Angeles and be in San Fran in about two hours? Not only would it save us time, but we'd be able to leave our polluting, congestion-causing cars at home, zip up the coast and then use the BART public transportation system to get around the Bay Area -- and all for less than the cost of a tank of gas (which is about what it would take to drive to SF).

Of course part of this project's appeal is the general consensus that bullet trains are super cool. They've been featured in plenty of movies, with our hero battling the bad guys in, on, through, hanging off of and shooting at helicopters from their speeding train cars. (Not that most of us hope to find ourselves in that sort of situation if the train line ever gets built!)

We're not officially endorsing Proposition 1A, but we do tend to agree with the LA Times' editorial sentiments:

"If the line never gets built, the state's losses will be well under $2 billion. That's not too much to wager on a visionary leap that would cement California's place as the nation's most forward-thinking state."

Though this might seem like a lot of money, keep in mind that California's gross state product (GSP) was about $1.812 trillion in 2007, which is largest in the United States and as a GDP is larger than all but eight countries in the world.