Sunday, February 28, 2010


So the day has come and gone.

My mother Anique created an entire day for my Grandmama akin to an old Aussie television show called This Is Your Life. In that show, someone heading into their twilight years would be honoured by having many of their old friends and colleagues brought out for a reunion. Although that show had its poignant moments, it would pale in comparison to what occurred yesterday in a house in Sydney's west.

Anique had set up a power point presentation, tracing Aimee's life from the time of her childhood in Egypt, from her boat ride to Australia to escape the anti-semitic sentiment that swept over that country, ousting the Jews, through to the early days in Australia when a young woman was forced to learn a new language, take care of three small children and a depressed husband in a tiny house that was more like a glorified shed, and then also find work in a new land, work that would have been unthinkable to her family in their former life in North Africa, when servants and money abounded. My Grandmother scrubbed floors, scrubbed her children and cooked food that was almost certainly more rudimentary than the delicious fare I became used to as a child making the trek to what became their larger house next door to the aforementioned shed that then became known to us as "the little place".

So yesterday, on the woman I now know as Aimee's 90th birthday, we all congregated to celebrate that long life, which continues today. My Grandmother has dementia, and I was riveted to her face almost the entire length of the presentation, as Mum commented on each photo for the people present who were less familiar with the events.

I didn't look at the photos that much. My grandmama's face told me the story of a life lived. There was no doubt that for her at this point, many of the young faces in the photos were strangers, maybe even those of herself. But it was the moments of recognition, of longing and sadness, joy and surprise, and even simply the childlike innocence of one who has forgotten that touched me so deeply. My Grandmother sat with her former best friend and elder sister Sara, clutching hands is if to retain a lifelong connection that at some point will be inevitably severed by the receding tide that is her memory. They shared excited shrieks, spontaneous hushed gasps and hollowed sighs.

You may have noticed I said 'former' when speaking of Sara as a best friend to Aimee. That is because the gigantic oak tree that my Grandmother now rests against is my mother. To see the way my Grandmother looks to her daughter 'Annie' for guidance, support and loving reassurance is to see a child reach her hands high for her mother's arms, breathing a sigh of relief as she is scooped up in the warmest embrace. Many times Aimee has said to me in that gentle French lilt, "where would I be without her?". Where indeed. If only every person could be assured of the kind of loving home (what Aimee calls her "little paradise") that will nourish my Grandmama until the end, which at this point may be some time away, judging by her health and good spirits. And why not? The woman has an HD television in her room for pete's sake! Usually set to the Spice channel. Hey, she's earned it.

So speeches were made, songs were sung and everyone paid their respects.

Half an hour after everyone had left I asked my Grandmother if she enjoyed all those old photos projected onto the screen.

Her eyes, in response, told me she'd forgotten already.

But that's okay. One of the gifts she will have from here until her final days is that she gets to live completely in the moment. The joy she gained from her 90th birthday will rest in her heart and in the recesses of her soul, to be reawakened by chance, miraculously, by a photo or a card from that day. It is in those moments of recognition that we see a rich inner life, free of its former cares, worries and resentments. When my Grandmother looks at me and my beautiful partner Victoria, I see recognition. I see a loving warmth. And I understand that it is immaterial whether or not those embers will still be burning tomorrow. Her heart, like mine, like yours, burns for today.

A story was read at the end of the ceremony:

"A 92 year-old petite, legally blind, well-poised and proud lady was fully dressed this morning by eight o'clock. Her hair was fashionably coiffed and her makeup perfectly applied. She was moving to a nursing home today. Her husband of 70 years recently passed away, making the move necessary. After many hours of waiting patiently in the lobby of the nursing home, she smiled sweetly when told her room was ready.
As she manoeuvred her walker to the elevator, she was provided with a visual description of her tiny room, including the eyelet sheets that had been draped on her window.
"I love it", she stated, with the enthusiasm of an 8-year old who had just been presented with a new puppy.
"Mrs Ellison, you haven't seen the room yet, just wait!"
"That doesn't have anything to do with it", she replied. "Happiness is something you decide ahead of time. Whether I like my room or not doesn't depend on how the furniture is arranged. ... it's how I arrange my mind. I had already decided to love it. It's a decision I make every morning when I wake up."

My Grandmother continues to make a lot of us happy, and I suspect that goes both ways.

Happy Birthday, Aimee.

Thursday, February 25, 2010


While travelling on the long flight to Sydney, I decided to turn on Kenny Ortega's homage to Michael Jackson, This Is It.

People who know me are aware of my intense, varied feelings for Michael. The first album I ever became obsessed with was Thriller. My family and I took a campervan trip through Europe in 1984, and I must have listened to that cassette (anyone who doesn't know what a cassette is can stop reading now) a hundred times as we crossed the continent. From there, it was a love affair, from Bad (terrible title track- the rest of the album is amazing), then Dangerous and even onto the woefully self-indulgent but still brilliant History album (anyone who questions that should revisit songs like World Song, Scream, Tabloid Junkie and They Don't Care About Us, for starters).

I know all the words. Can do all the moves. Okay, that last statement was a complete lie. But you get the picture. I was a fan.

Alas, it all fell apart. I have no idea if the man molested children, although my gut tells me something strange went on. What I do know is that the man's ego and insecurity flew way out of control and for many years he ceased to be the artist we had come to take for granted. I saw Jackson in 1997, immersed in a sea of 50,000 adoring fans. The bloated opening to the show featured an inane video gamish projection, ending with an actual rocket ship appearing on stage. I was almost asleep by the time Michael finally appeared in his shiny jump suit. He did his first spin.

And almost fell over.

I couldn't believe it. And yet I could. This was the same entertainment empire disguised as a
human being who'd had a massive inflatable likeness of himself shipped out on a boat onto Sydney Harbour. I was starting to suspect that Michael had become more enamoured of being the biggest, best, most sold, biggest-profit-made guy than an actual creative artist. The concert ended up confirming all those suspicions and more. It was a tragic, hollow rehash of all his hits, with absolutely nothing done to them to make them relevant and contemporary. Michael looked bored. And so was I.

I then had to suffer through the indignity of his 2002 "tribute" special. This was neither a tribute to anyone nor special. It was a farce. Whitney's cracked-out ribcage was CGI'd out by the show's producers, as was Michael's devastated face, starting to dissolve under the torrents of sweat, no doubt due to his complete lack of conditioning and practice. The man clearly hadn't been doing
much dancing or singing before the show. Even worse were the shots of him sitting with Macaulay Culkin and Elizabeth Taylor while the other performers were paying their respects. My god, the man looked positively off his face. The pill-popping had begun.

So, to cut a long story slightly shorter, I was burnt. My feelings were hurt. The guy had nothing left. I had watched the ABC documentary on him with that annoying English reporter and my scathing opinion was only strengthened by the vain, immature, self-centered display that Michael put on. I was stunned to hear he was "shocked" by the "spin" the documentary's producers put on the whole fiasco. Really, Michael?

Now here we were, all these years later. I walk in, CNN's playing and Michael Jackson is dead. Right before he was due to resume his career with a sold-out world tour. Bingo, I think. He couldn't go through with it, I say to myself. He wasn't ready to face the humiliation. Think of it: he couldn't get through four numbers on a tribute show- how was he going to do 50 in London? Of course he decided to check out.

Four months after that, I hear that there's going to be a movie of the rehearsal of his tour. Everyone from the director, Kenny Ortega, to the singers and dancers who were part of it are coming out saying how great Jacko was, how ready he was, how "on fire" he'd been from day one. Michael was back!!!, they were proclaiming. I, on the other hand, was scoffing like a madman.
These people were just being the same sycophantic, dishonest idiots that so many others had been in the preceding decade. But I also was sympathetic. After all, they were fans just like me; the only difference, I assured myself, was that they didn't have the moral fortitude and emotional courage that I had (in spades) to face the truth.

Well. On that plane from Los Angeles to Sydney, I did indeed watch This Is It.

And I stand gloriously and profoundly corrected.

In the eleventh hour of his life, Michael Jackson was indeed.... back. He had finally allowed himself to evolve and work with who he was right now as an artist- not the younger, flashier and dare I say darker version of himself from all those years ago. Here was a man exploring the moment, alive to every single possibility that existed inside himself. I was blown away by the man's intensity, passion and absolute fire that was burning every second that he was on screen.

And he was working within himself! Finally... it was an inspiration to see this man allowing the spontaneity of the moment to happen just as it was, without straining for greatness or trying to resuscitate dead representations of the past. And, of course, in doing so, he once again became the supernova he'd been for so long, and I got to enjoy anew that brilliance, joy and absolute inspiration in that particular way that only Michael Jackson was capable of.

The word inspiration literally means the act of in-spiring, of instilling spirit into others. This to me is the greatest achievement of the artist, to be able to awaken the spirit in others, through the illumination of our own. Michael Jackson did this, returning to his creative source for one last glorious flash across the night sky. This, without a doubt, was it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010


Sunday morning.

It started at 8am with a little Meet the Press. I love David Gregory but the guests were miserable. General David Petraeus with nothing new to report on an aimless mission in Afghanistan. The man's hair is awful - it looks like he had it cut by the janitor at Supercuts. How can we, as westerners, ever hope to win the respect of the muslim world with haircuts like that?
Then we had a lame political panel with among others Peggy Noonan, who may win the award for most frequent self-indulgent pauses per sixty seconds, narrowly beating out a friend of mine and Vic's*. Peggy, you have very little insight to share with us- let's get it over with quickly. There were two corporate representatives posing as congressmen there to pour forth a little drivel. Last but certainly not least was EJ Dionne, the lone sane (albeit lispy) voice, clearly outnumbered despite David Gregory's best efforts to keep him included. A big letdown overall.

A little guitar practice after that, which is bringing me a lot of pleasure. I'm currently working on Don't Dream It's Over by Crowded House and A Case Of You by Joni Mitchell. Beautiful song. I've long believed that anyone who dislikes Joni Mitchell simply cannot be trusted. Having said that, from what I've heard Joni Mitchell doesn't much like Joni Mitchell so maybe there are exceptions to that rule.

I have to make the trek to Whole Foods now - on a Sunday. That's not going to be pleasant. It reminds me of the Christmas eve when I stupidly decided to pick up some last minute stuff for dinner that night at the Fairway market on the Upper West Side in Manhattan. Now, anyone who's ever been there on a quiet day will understand the trauma I experienced. One could literally not move more than two feet at a time. I got into a wrestling match with a very old Jewish lady for the last jar of Gelfite fish. She kneed me in the balls and made off with it. Despite what Fox News might infer, us Jews don't always stick together. As she stole away, I heard myself screaming in resentment from the slimy Fairway floor, "DEATH TO ISRAEL!". She flipped me the bird as she rounded the corner, her cart screeching. That's the last I saw of her.

The main reason for my trek today is that Victoria's nose is stuffy . Or sniffly. One of those 's' words with 'ly' on the end. Snuggly? No, that's not right. Maybe snuffly. Please leave suggestions in the comment box so I can get this right. At any rate, she seems to think peppermint oil may do the trick. I'll keep you posted on this gripping development.

We went to see The Hurt Locker at the Egyptian cinema the other night. A fascinating place if you're into Hollywood history, which I am. We didn't see the film in the grand old theatre, unfortunately. It was down in the screening room below. Another letdown. The film was good but once again we had to put up with people who don't seem to realize that having a lovely old chat in the middle of a cinema usually bothers the people actually trying to take in the picture. So, for the three thousandth time in my life I was forced to tell them to shut it- semi-politely, of course. I was especially emboldened by the fact that there were eleven people in the theatre and seven of them were in my posse. Actually there were only six of us to start with, but we decided to allow a very geeky film buff nearby to be the seventh member of our gang. So we outnumbered this daft couple who seemed to be stunned by our outrage. Maybe it was their first time leaving the house to watch a movie. I still didn't feel completely comfortable, however; there's always the possiblity of a fight in those circumstances and our gang was, shall we say, untestedin physical combat. Let me list the members:

1. Aforementioned film geek. The closest this guy had probably come to a fight was watching a 1030 am showing of Rocky IV by himself at his local theatre on a lonely saturday morning in 1985.
2. Our friend Katie. She's an architectural historian. Nuff said.
3. Lucas. He's probably got the best credentials. Rides a motorbike. Used to be in the Air Force, where he flew helicopters. Unfortunately, he has no arms- forgot to bend over one time when he exited the chopper. We call him 'stumpy'. He loves that name.
4. Erin. Something of a wordsmith. Good at pictionary. A big MMA career beckons.
5. John. Chews tobacco, which is a promising sign. From PA, which looks good as well. He likes to sunbathe and swim in the pool in winter, too. A hard man. Could be our go-to. Likes to make his own comic-book sound effects at random moments. Hang on. That last part troubles me.
6. My beautiful Victoria. She once hurt her hand lightly slapping my rear end. Yes, it's firm. Not that firm. I must ask her if there's a word for 'wussbag' in German.
7. Finally, yours truly. Uh... the guy watching Rocky IV that saturday morning was me. We're in trouble here.

Luckily, the two cave dwellers, as shocked as they seemed to be, were quiet after that and left without a peep. Now we just need to name our gang. Ideas, anyone?

*Our self-indulgent pauser's name has been omitted to spare his feelings. This is a compassionate blog. Just don't talk while someone else is reading it.


This article should be read by anyone who thinks this 'economy' is recovering:

Saturday, February 20, 2010


So here we go. Another sportsman tearfully proclaims his remorse and asks for our forgiveness.

I've had it with these jerks. I wish the general public who spend their hard-earned money to attend sporting events to watch these people hit little balls around or homo-erotically wrestle with eachother for a larger ball would understand that most of these guys, while large and well-formed on the outside, are really just oversized, early-adolescent boys. They have grown up in the spotlight and their main psychic fuel comes from being the center of attention. As they morph into 'men', that fuel also comes from the multitude of 'conquests' they achieve through the endless women who want to be associated with their success and celebrity and, therefore, 'power'.

But these words, power, success, conquest, are just that: words. What power is there in being able to put a ball in a hoop? Or having a zillion clams in your bank account? Do we define success by the number of people who know who we are?

I'm happy to be amazed by the physical prowess of some of these guys- their work ethic, their passion. But let's be clear. The masculine sense of 'mission' that we are breeding into our male athletes (and some female ones) has become warped by our overhyping and overestimation of what they do and the contribution they make. Tiger Woods hits a little ball into a hole. Michael Jordan threw a larger round ball into a net. Yes, they can bring pleasure to us through their deeds but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that anything or anyone is being 'conquered' here and, more importantly, why are we so such slavish in our admiration of what we perceive as conquest, whether in the bedroom or anywhere else?

For me, this is one of the core paradigms that needs changing in our society. It is this obsession with conquest that leads America into useless wars and on the smaller scale allows us to turn a blind eye to poor behaviour from our athletes and/or to endow them with greater humanity than they may possess. Dreams and visions of 'conquest', further pumped up by the constant stream of violence and jingoistic machismo by our media and 'entertainment' industry inspires many of us to take up causes for and give our precious treasure to endeavours that may not actually be in our best interests.

Tiger Woods showed us who he really was when he got caught and hid like a coward from the cameras and then continued his cowardice by refusing to take questions at his long overdue press conference. Mark McGwire showed us the reality of his inner smallness by lying about his reasons for taking steroids. Kirby Puckett beat and terrorised his wife and yet is still spoken of glowingly as if that never happened. Enough.

It's time to ratchet down the importance we give to people playing silly if lovable games. It's time to start valuing what people give to our society and what they create for its betterment instead of what they take and what they kill or 'conquer'. Maybe it's also time to stop emptying our wallets for these sporting institutions and start thinking of other ways to help give poor kids a way out of hopelessness that is sustainable and more far-reaching.
Remember the next time you hear someone gush about how great it is that sport gives poor kids 'a way out' that only a tiny fraction of impoverished children (of which there are millions) in this country actually make it out of poverty through successful sporting careers or athletic scholarship.

I applaud the impulse inside Tiger Woods and the rest to be as great as they can be at what they do. But there has to be a parallel track that compels them to be great at who they are as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010


Victoria's so excited to leave for Australia that she's even started to laugh at my jokes. The woman is well travelled: born in Austria, spent time in London, Paris, the rest of Europe. American citizen, having spent alot of the wilds of her youth in the culture-filled, urban melting pot that is the Twin Cities. But one thing she has never done is go south of the Equator.

Her time is approaching.

She asked me the other night, "what are some of the major differences I'll notice quickly?". Good question. Let me take a crack.

Well, easy one, we drive on the left. She experienced this in London so no fascination there. I am surprised, given her time in the UK, with how unwilling she is to drive my mother's car (not that mum has even said she could anyway). I suspect it's due to the mountain of latently chauvinistic criticism she says I direct her way when she drives here in the US.

Of that I say: I have no idea what she's talking about.

What else.... ah yes, the food. To all my American readers, my apologies in advance, but... in general the food here in the Yoonited States of America blows, to use a term I hear employed by today's youth. Bland, over-pesticided, too many preservatives. The food is outstanding down there. One of only two things I miss. The other being the beaches.

Which brings me to the beaches. First up: they're topless. Now, I'm not an ogler. It's true. At least not when I've left my mirror shades at home. But I have to say that women walking down the beach with their breasts hanging out does provide entertainment for the eyes. I would think it would be similar were there men walking around with their schlongs out. It's not something one sees every day and therefore is a curiosity to take in.

But I digress. Here's the challenge for Victoria: will she do it? I would think it would feel extremely vulnerable to go topless when you're not used to it. Kind of like walking into a library topless, or anywhere else for that matter (Switzerland has topless libraries. Amazing). We'll see.

Another thing about the beaches is the fineness of the sand. It's like cocaine, it's so fine. How do I know to draw that comparison? Victoria is a huge cokehead. If you ever need to know exactly how fine cocaine is, give her a call.

The water? Here's the irony: when I was growing up, Sydney's world famous Bondi Beach was a shithole. Literally. The local government back then used to pump raw sewage just off the headlands, and on the right (or wrong) days it would flow back into the beach. I remember, as a child, swimming out in the lovely brown water and wondering why people were unwrapping their mars bars and throwing them into the sea.

This blog today is gross. Positively scatological. My apologies.

Anyway, about twenty years ago or so they decided to get serious. They built a high-grade sewage treatment plant and have begun pumping the much cleaner stuff right out to sea. So we're in great shape, swimming in tropical, light-blue water. Gorgeous.

Last piece of trivia, which has nothing to do with fecal issues: every single public beach in Sydney is required to have an enormous net a little way out. You can't see it, but you're delighted it's there. One imagines hordes of sharks just beyond it, straining to get their teeth on a succulent piece of fresh meat.

A similar dynamic to what will take place on land the first time my girlfriend goes topless.
Good luck, darling.

Thursday, February 18, 2010


My mother just left a message for me asking me to say a few words about my grandmother at her 90th birthday.

90. Hmm. I discovered the rich human being that was my grandmama later in life. In my childhood and early adolescence she was always just a conduit for the fabulous food I got to inhale whenever my mother took my brother and I on the long drive to her house all those years ago.

She used to poach a chicken in oil and seasoning in a mysterious process I've never seen duplicated- no one's chook (aussie term) has tasted quite the same. She might do some beans, cooked to within an inch of their life, with some rice that didn't have the right to be as tasty as it was, given that very little seemed to have been added to it.

Her salad dressing was a marvel. Olive oil, a little lemon, salt. Dee licious. Yet try making it yourself. Impossible. Too much oil. Too little lemon. Oversalted. My grandmother, Aimee to her friends, had the touch. Then it was vanilla ice cream, about four bowls of it and a date with the TV- with headphones! The television was right by the dinner table, you see, so grandmama had invested in a set of headphones for me so I could take in whatever rubbish happened to be on at the time (4 channels to choose from back then- really 3, because one of them was a PBS-style network, not at all to a 9 year-old's taste) while everyone else nattered away.

Sometimes we'd play rummy with these mah jong-looking tiles. All of this would unfold beneath the placid gaze of my grandfather, a man with a strange predilection for having a towel draped over his shoulders. He was also the first man I ever saw who cut the corn off of his cob before he ate it. Papa, as we called him, also barely spoke a word to us in the twenty five years or so that my brother and I knew him. Because he couldn't. He'd never bothered to learn to speak English. A great way to avoid conversation, really. The most emoting I ever saw him do was when someone would slip on a banana peel on the TV, or some such piece of hackneyed slapstick. Then he'd be rolling, the shoulders (with the towel on them), heaving up and down, little squeaks of delight emanating through his corn-pocked teeth. That and the pretty ladies would always get a reaction from him. At this point I need to ask a delicate and disturbing question: did Papa make love with that towel on his back? I guess it could come in handy. Alright, enough of that; we're getting into a grey area here.

My grandmother is 90. She has dementia. For her right now, that means forgetting what happened 10 minutes ago, and not quite keeping up with the rest of us. I'm sure at this moment Grandmama, wherever she is, has little memory of the two little red-headed boys who used to frequent her quaint little home on the northern beaches of Sydney a couple of decades ago. But get in front of her and the eyes light up. Her heart remembers, and it seems as if the bridge to all those memories is briefly rebuilt. In those moments, she's still well and truly alive and kicking. I just have to accept I'm not getting my chicken.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


One of the biggest challenges for me in uprooting myself from my old life in New York and coming to Los Angeles with essentially a clean slate has been to keep my gaze pointed toward the potential of the present and where it can lead.
Yet, as I write this, I can see the immense joy and fulfillment that can come from that 'clean slate'; how often do we give ourselves that gift of total newness?
It sounds good in theory. In practice? It's been difficult. I'm glad to have made the discovery for myself that a lot of my sadness and inaction stems from looking back into the past, pining for headier days, days that seemed sprinkled with the angel dust of limitless possibility and continual adventure.
When the hell did I become Blanche Dubois, living in a revery of ancient dreams? I'm embarrassed to admit it, but on my weaker days I have found myself, during these last two and a half years in LA, lying on my bed thinking about the 'good old days' in New York when I was 'young' and everything seemed to be so exciting.
This entry was inspired by the fact that I woke up with some of that familiar melancholy today, a result of a planned lunch with two former acting classmates from New York. The year was 1998, I came to the US for the first time and the world seemed like a ripe mango to plunge my gaping mouth into.
Problem. Why has the world not seemed like that as much lately? Is it a function of being 36 now, as opposed to 26? Surely not. Surely there can't be a magic demarcation line that exists, which, once crossed, leaves us in a state of placidity and boredom, yearning for the past? I passionately reject that notion.

More likely is that if there was a line like that which I did indeed cross, it was of MY OWN making. That on a daily basis my sense of excitement and adventure in my life is dependent entirely on ME. It is I who must choose to accept that every moment brings infinite creative potential, if and when I choose to stand up and grab it with both hands and pull it into the deepest part of me. Of course we are all in a constant state of co-creation with the outside reality of our lives. It is a given that outside forces have the power to leave us intensely happy and grief-stricken. But when it comes to feeling a consistent sense of fulfillment and adventure in our lives, we cannot look to anyone or anything but ourselves, our own imaginations and our own spirit for life. I need not yearn for the past; I need only become aware of the impulses, feelings and burning desire to create and to LIVE FULLY that pulsate beneath my conscious mind, the very stuff that propelled me to sit down and write this today.

Lunch with friends at one o'clock. There's nothing wrong with reminiscing. But I'm going to remember as we sit together that there's a lot more ahead than behind.

Sunday, February 14, 2010


Before I begin my live update from the Winterish Olympics in Vancouver, Canadia, a small caveat:

I'm not sure that all this fun stuff in the snow is truly sport.

There. I said it. Those words weren't cheap, either. My Austrian girlfriend will now have me sleeping on the couch for the next eon. She's a prolific skier, you see. Probably visualizes tall, well-hung Swiss-German ski instructors while we make love. But that's for another day.

Is this stuff sport? Or just a highly-skilled leisure activity?

No matter. It's the effing Olympics, goddamn it, and you've all been breathlessly waiting for my first report on the whole shebang to truly feel up to date.

Okay. First up: I was surprised to find myself mesmerized by the 1500m speed skating event. This gentleman Apollo Ohno from the US of A is a sight to behold. The way he hung back in the heats, calmly timing his attack and then threading the needle to whisk through to the front of the pack was impressive. Having said that, he couldn’t quite get it together in the final yet caught a break when the two Koreans in 2nd and 3rd place tripped each other up and crashed out of the event. This is the second time I’ve seen this happen in the final of the speed skating. The first time was just as memorable because it allowed an Australian to capture the first ever medal at the Winter Games for that country- my country of origin, as it turns out. I remember it well- he was coming about 11th (possibly an exaggeration), when all of a sudden about nine guys in front of him seemed to get into a heated argument about whose ass looked best in those tight pants, or something to that effect and proceeded to get caught up in a terrible (and hilarious) tangle, collapsing in a sliding heap of humanity against the wall as this lucky Aussie devil cruised through to the Bronze, arms raised in triumph.

This guy Ohno did the same thing. Yes! He seemed to exclaim as he crossed the finish line. That’s what I’M talking about!

Question: does irony dissolve in cold temperatures? Imagine that happening in other sports- would Roger Federer leap in the air with joy if, down two sets, 5-0 and three match points, his opponent suddenly got an attack of narcolepsy and couldn’t finish the match, lying fast asleep on the other side of the net? Would Roger grab the trophy and cry tears of joy, thanking God for all his support in making him the undisputed champeen of the world? I doubt it. At least toss us a sheepish grin as you accept your medal, guys.

Still, a lovely event, thoroughly entertaining and exciting to boot.

I then watched a skiing event which Victoria told me was called the Moguls. I hoped that this would be a bunch of muscly-legged Europeans skijumping onto the heads of Rupert Murdoch, Donald Trumps and all their corporate tycoon buddies, but alas, it’s just a downhill run over a bunch of little hills (moguls- spelling is probably wrong), interspersed with x-gamesy jumps. The best part of this whole event was something they’re doing in the finals called the ‘hot seat’, where three leather loveseats (must be snowproof leather- Ikea are one of the games’ sponsors)are placed to the side of the course and are taken by the three leading medal contenders at that point, who proceed to recline and watch their rivals try to displace them. The result is terrific television, of course, as we watch the skiiers get up and shift down every time a new leader is announced, like the poor schmo at the basketball who has snuck down to the more expensive seats and is impolitely asked to move his behind when the actual ticket-holders smugly appear. I was impressed, however, by the general goodwill on display by the skiiers when the new leader on the board would come over and take their place in the Gold seat. No abuse, no roundhouses, just nice smiles, hugs and claps on the back.

I haven’t seen that kind of generosity, open-heartedness and general good humour in some time in high-level sports... which confirms what I have suspected: this can’t possibly BE sport, can it? Not the kind we’ve all gotten used to here in the US, anyway.

That’s it for now- the water has just hit the perfect temperature in our hot tub, the champagne has been uncorked and Victoria is waiting for me with that come-hither look. Now this is what I call a winter sport (post all complaints at

Friday, February 12, 2010


I was standing in line at the supermarket, waiting to get to one of the new-fangled, futuristic, self-checkout machines. Victoria and I had run out of our favorite beverage: apple juice and mineral (sparkling for you Americans) water. As I stood there, I noticed the short, rotund female security guard standing at the head of the row of machines, directing customers to their allotted checkout robot.

As I took her in, my thoughts drifted to familiar, wistful notions of the past, present and future of someone like this woman- possibly an immigrant, with a family to support and not many prospects for advancement. In moments like these I often feel sadness, thinking about the fact that at one point this woman was a little girl like any other, dreaming of an exciting, happy life, being everything she wanted to be. Is this the way she wanted to turn out, saying "number 3" to clowns like me in my ridiculous cut-off shorts and handcut t-shirt (don't ask)?

It was at this moment that I remembered something comforting: whether or not this woman in front of me has a secret, passionate life of which I'm ignorant, there DOES exist inside her the same magnificent humanity as exists in our favorite orchestral conductor, NBA athlete, inspirational political leader or selfless carer of the sick and helpless. The potential in a person may not in a particular moment be realised, but it is enough to know it is THERE, and in every waking moment has the chance to flower. Who knows what the spark might be that sets off the fire in that woman, to suddenly start to create the life she has always imagined? Maybe that fire is already lit.

All I know is whether you're a toll collector, or a security guard at a supermarket, or a news anchor, or anything else, in every moment we always have the choice to lovingly and self-respectingly affirm that as human beings we have the right in every moment to allow the beauty of that humanity to come through in how we live. Even better is the knowledge that with or without our help, it does anyway.


I'm sitting here in my apartment watching Charlie Rose interview the head of the Chamber of Commerce. I haven't bothered to remember the man's name. Suffice it to say he's male, white and old with the classic sidepart and expensive suit. Charlie and he then agreed on something that really crystallizes for me the massive problem we have in this country concerning the dialogue that is had by our politicians and media.

They were discussing the recession, how it's been the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. They then said that although things are still bad, we have managed to "avert disaster".

That's when I stopped working on my computer and looked up. Did they just say that? Of course they did.

In their minds, "we" averted disaster.

But just who is the "we" they speak of? Because last time I checked the numbers, there are somewhere between 40 and 50 million Americans living under or around the poverty line. Fifty million people who are malnourished, living in near-squalor and without any hope of finding a decent job that pays a living wage. And by living wage I mean living like HUMAN BEINGS, not animals.

But to this character from the illustrious Chamber and our Charlie, those people clearly do not count. They are the "insignificants", as Noam Chomsky has facetiously branded them. There is nothing facetious, however, in the way our supposedly "liberal" media talks about the economic crisis.

Next time you turn on the mainstream media, whether it be the networks or the cable news channels, keep an eye out for any talk of the real poor in this country when economists sit around a glass table discussing "the issues". You won't hear about them. Ten percent unemployment, they say? Not quite. Years ago, someone decided to stop including the people who've given up seeking employment when arriving at the percentages. If we were to actually INCLUDE the "insignificants", the abjectly destitute, NON-educated people with no connection to wealth or assets of any kind, that number would be substantially higher.

As long as we all stay in denial about the masses of people who live somewhere else, know someone else and are represented by nobody we want to hear from, their numbers will continue to increase.

The American society has become a giant fake movie set. Turn left instead of right, go through the wrong door, make the wrong move and suddenly you find yourself somewhere that tells you all the pretty dialogue and glamour really was just a facade and that the real story doesn't go quite the way they're selling it.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


Victoria is talking loudly on her cell phone. She's very excited, having gotten a spunky new haircut so I'll cut her a break.

We got through the first two episodes of The Office last night. The real one. With my new hero Ricky Gervais. It's frighteningly easy to forget that without the original, Steve Carell's wouldn't even exist. Having said that, NBC's 'cover' is a funny, entertaining show. I love Carell but he still has that little bit of SNL shtick in his acting that lets us all know he's playing at it. Gervais, on the other hand, is just an out-and-out dick. The original also pushes the limit in ways the prime-time, American version could never do with its more conservative audience (or, maybe it could but it won't). The second episode featured a new sexy secretary who was treated like a soaking hot piece of fresh meat at the staff introduction. It was what Gervais does best: politically incorrect cringe central. There was also a scene with one of his character's few non-white employees that made me howl and would also never have survived the first draft in the US show.

Which brings me to: The Invention Of Lying, Gervais' first crack at a Hollywood movie.

This piece of celluloid offal can only be well described using a word my brother Ben and I invented: Trubbish.

Jennifer Garner is delightful and helpless. Gervais is himself and completely out of place in the utopian New England small town setting. The premise may have seemed promising at the first pitch meeting: what if no one knew how to lie or had even heard of the concept and one day a down-and-out loser figures it out?

Victoria and I are convinced that Gervais was given the green light based on the premise and told he had a month to write it. Or maybe a week. The film is ridiculous and has absolutely no inner logic. There are scenes involving deep pathos that are pathetically out of tune with the rest of the film, although Gervais does shine in those moments.

Trubbish. With a capital 'tr'.

Pizza just arrived. Half pepperoni, half plain. If I had my way I would have ordered it easy cheese, but the Queen doesn't like that. Such a shame. No wonder she's getting enormous. Fat Americans are one thing but obese Austrians? A tragedy.

Fox News has just decided that global warming is without doubt a hoax, due to all the snow right now down the Atlantic Coast. Makes sense.

Victoria. Time to get off the phone. The pizza is getting cold. This is how World War I started. A french guy ordered a pizza, his German wife wouldn't get off her cellphone (work with me) and he threw her out. She walked all the way back to Germany, told the Kaiser what happened, he cried 'schweinhundt!' and sent in the army. Six million corpses later and some people still don't understand - forget global warming. How about pizza cooling?

Saturday, February 6, 2010



Probably not the word one would immediately think of when describing Ricky Gervais’ Extras, but... it kept coming to me as I tearfully sat through the final moments of the series finale.

Hmm... the beginning of this entry sounds like it’s being written by a critic doing a review. This is not a review. This is an actor talking about a piece of art.

Yes. Art. This show is so human. Who would have thought that Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant would attempt to make a rise-and-fall story, a story of maturation that would travel as far as it does in so little screen time? There are moments of such naked honesty, such clarity in illuminating the human condition... jesus I sound like a pretentious sap but it’s true! I often talk about great art as giving us the essence, the thing itself. Great poems about nature allow us to taste the essence of that experience. Songs can illuminate grief, cut through any thoughts/intellectualisations of it to give us grief itself.

Well- this story gives us the classic rise and fall. Extras shows us the ego itself, and how it can change us, humble us and ultimately make us suffer until we grow and transcend it, (hopefully) finding fulfillment, joy and innocence on the other side. Extras is a story of innocence lost and found again. The best part of this show is that it’s a classic left-right combination: it makes us think we’re in for a fun, silly ride – which it duly delivers – only to discover it’s a show that can teach us about and remind us of ourselves, making us cringe and grieve and hope. I said early on that all actors in Los Angeles should watch this show. Having watched the finale, I have no doubt that we’re all in the process of living its journey. Hopefully we’re all closer to the end than the beginning. BRAVO. Extras is epic.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010


It hit me a couple of days ago. What I miss about New York.

I've spent a lot of time (too much, in fact) looking back on my years in New York. What am I, an old man?? Reflection is a dangerous cocktail to drink; it only ever serves us when it helps us to clear the brush preventing us from moving forward. Most of my reflection has itself been the obstacle for me, so I have largely abandoned the practice.

However, one thing I discovered about my time in New York has opened the way for me these last two days.

I've often wondered why discipline has been more of a challenge out here. Not even discipline- just simple self-care. One often hears of actors coming to LA and disappearing into a morass of depression and inaction. Speaking for myself, I have to say that the one thing that was a constant for me in New York, often provided simply by the city itself, is:


Not entertainment, mind you. That's passive. We all get more than enough 'entertainment' in our lives. I remember my acting teacher in New York saying to us all, 'from now on, there is no more entertainment for you.' That was excessive, but I see her point. Creative stimulation is what feeds and nourishes us as artists, whether we call ourselves artists or not.

For me personally, it's about being in the creative arena. We may complain about working with people who annoy us or with whom we fundamentally disagree, but finding a way to solve problems in concert with those people is enormously stimulating. We may find our hopes dashed or feel rejected in offering our work to the world, but the process of putting ourselves out there on a daily basis brings its own reward. I am a sound sleeper as a rule, but when I find myself awake at 5 am, thinking about all the things I could be doing, I know that I'm not spending enough time 'going to the volcano' as someone once said.

It was reassuring to know that New York, magnificent as it is, didn't hold some special creative elixir that was no longer available to me here in Los Angeles. Maybe the more challenging (and possibly more rewarding) lesson right now is that as artists, we need to be creating our own
volcanic arenas in which to take flight.

Monday, February 1, 2010


Feb 1. Givers and receivers report in a couple of weeks. Time to share some thoughts that have been percolating during this long, cold winter (we actually got down to 45 the other night).

Let's start with the Hall of Fame, now that it's blown over. Andre Dawson's admittance continued to lower the bar for entry, a bar brought down by Jim Rice a couple of years ago. Who's next, Jeremy Burnitz? These guys were very good, top shelf players who are not Hall of Famers. Bert Blyleven is lineball. Tim Raines? I don't care what statisticians tell me, a Hall of Famer needs to have a no-doubt element to him and if he doesn't, he ain't getting in. Edgar Martinez? Yes. No doubt. Devastating numbers over a long period of time. Screw the defense question. If this guy were a Yankee he'd be there. Jack Morris. Never. Like Dawson, if a guy has a major hole in his hall of fame boat, he doesn't reach the promised land in my book. Morris' 3.90 ERA sinks him. That number, considering he pitched mostly in the pre-steroids, pro-hitter era is irredeemable. Just like Andre's medicore OBP. Dawson said that number was low because he 'wasn't paid to draw walks'. Really? Look at any genuinely great power hitter in the Hall and you'll find very good OBPs. The real reason this guy didn't get on base as much is because he wasn't an elite hitter of his era and therefore swung at alot of bad pitches. Enough said.

Okay, some thoughts on the upcoming season. The Yankees have been active, as usual. Javier Vasquez is an outstanding pickup. I was talking with a dim-witted Yankee fan the other day who mentioned 2004 when raising doubts about this trade. Vasquez was an All-Star in 2004 with New York. Yes, he fell off in the second half and had me crying with joy when Damon hit a grand slam off him in Game 7, but one mistake pitch and a poor second half doesn't close the case against this guy. He's been one of the better pitchers for the last decade and makes the Yankees' rotation more formidable. I wouldn't be surprised to see him surplant Pettitte or even Burnett in the hierachy of that rotation. On offense, however, it's chancier. Damon and Matsui are big losses. Both of them are studs when it counts. I'm a huge Damon fan- this guy is a winner and is a dark horse for 3,000 hits. Granderson has a big upside but hasn't been able to hit lefties, Randy Winn is over the hill and Nick Johnson? Maybe. They're still the team to beat due to that terrifying Jeter-Arod- Tex punch in the lineup and their starting pitching/closing.

The most intriguing team in the AL will be Tim Hornor's Mariners. Maybe the best 1-2 starting pitching punch in the majors. Great defense (if you value that highly, a huge argument between Mr.Hornor and I) and a lot of good young talent. Yes, they lack big offense but the AL West is wide open this year and will be a really fun division. I've been telling Tim for weeks that they should take a punt on Carlos Delgado. Ken Griffey is no longer a major-league level everyday DH. Delgado could easily go 30-100 if he's healthy. Pay him 5 mill and take a chance.

My Mets? Well, it's been a mediocre hot stove. Jason Bay will be a good hitter for them but on his own isn't enough. If they had also signed Holliday I would have been excited. Right now their core is weak. I measure this through looking at a team's 1-3-4-5 on offense, their 1-2-3 in the rotation and their 8-9 in the bullpen. The Mets (hopefully) will have Reyes-Beltran-Bay-Wright on offense, Santana-Pelfrey-Maine as their main starters and Escobar/Igarashi and KRod for setup/closing. The starting pitching is pathetically weak. The eighth and ninth inning is leaky- I think KRod is overrated and vastly overpaid. Their offense, if Beltran can get healthy, is okay but isn't going to scare anyone. Considering the fact that the Phillies will be powerful again, the Braves are going to be a lot better and the Nationals will win between 8-10 games more than last year, I'm not optimistic about anything beyond third place in the division.

I'd be interesting to hear any comments you may have on this- I love a good baseball argument. Defense, anyone?