Off and Away Again

Off to Europe in a few hours for a couple of weeks of bumming around the southern part of the continent. Not taking my laptop, so there won’t be much here. But you can still read or re-read–or re-re-read–the one about how I got to meet my favorite actress. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday: Chillin’ Edition

Songs in my head today: “Hello,” by Schuyler Fisk, and “Anyway,” by Alicia Witt. What could they possibly have in common? Other than both being redhead actresses, of course. . .

Here’s my last tour of Scandinavian capitals. Time to chill out from this California early spring of heat. . . though its cloudy this morning.

Ever work for a boss so mean that when you say, “Please don’t send me to Scandinavia!” he chuckles evilly and immediately sends you there? Well, just so you know, I love Scandinavia, and I love to play poker with my former boss. . .
“Wouldn’t you rather be halfway around the world than stuck in your house?” the e-mail screamed. That would have been a lot more impressive if I hadn’t been in a hotel halfway around the world.
So, my second Scandinavian tour in three years, but last time was right in the middle of summer and this time it’s in the middle of fall, not blizzarding yet but definitely colder than I’d like.

ICELAND
Two days before I left, I ran into the Icelandic president here in LA. He told me to bring a heavy jacket. Gee, thanks for the advice. Though he did tell me Iceland didn’t need Daylight Savings, so it’s a 7 hour dif instead of 8.
It’s 40 degrees–help me! And raining. . .
The biggest deal to hit the island in a while was the Imagine Peace Tower, which was actually on a smaller island in the harbor: A beam of light radiating from a wishing well bearing the words “imagine peace” in 24 languages. They told me I was the first professional photographer not at the unveiling to shoot it, so another thing to put on the application to the hall of fame. Seriously though, it’s not at all different from the light at the top of Luxor in Las Vegas. It may stand for something special, but it doesn’t look like such a big deal. Just goes to show why Yoko Ono’s rep is well deserved. {No, I don’t have any idea what I mean by that either.}
Prices keep going up–last time the burger and fries combo at the Vitabar was about $4, now it’s $7.50. . . though that’s still less than at Mel’s at Hollywood and Highland. They tried to get me to eat something they call a gleym-mer-ey (which translates to “forget-me-not”–guess it looks like the flower), which is a blue cheese and garlic burger. They really don’t know me well. . . or if they do, were actually trying to kill me, since I’m allergic to garlic. So nice of them. . .
The most fun–to do, not to say–was the “Wonders of Snæfellsnes” tour–that’s a glacier, which Jules Verne used as the portal into the center of the earth in his famous book. Luckily we didn’t go downwards, but just in this small area there was black sand beaches, waterfalls, scenic coastlines, seals, and even a stop for lunch at an inn that did not serve fish, thankfully.
Back in town, I went to a handball game, which is a kinda cross between basketball and soccer, but much more exciting. Really wish I coulda played it in my athletic days, though of course not now; I think I could score a penalty, if my life depended on it, but that’s a long field for running. . . nah, I probably would have been a goalie here too. And I was happy to notice the female players used shorts much more akin to volleyball players, rather than basketball or soccer.
Also went to the Reykjavik Museum of Photography, where I was talking to the doorman while we waited a few minutes for the place to open, and when I told him I was a professional photographer, and I was in Iceland to work, he let me in free! So if you go there, give them some monetary love for me.

NORWAY
Fjords need sunlight for a good photo. Looks depressing when cloudy, and when it’s foggy it doesn’t look at all, despite the fall foliage that could rival New England. Did manage to visit this new archaeology dig, which included an exhibit of a Viking queen and princess from 1200 years ago–most fun I’ve had in Norway in a while. I don’t know why but Norway has always been my least favorite of the Scan countries; it couldn’t be the blondes. . .
Some years ago, after the military saw how long it took to get everything ready for the first gulf war, they had the bright idea of pre-positioning supplies in certain parts of the world, so they could get to the war zone quicker–all you had to do was fly in the troops, and the tanks and shit would be waiting for them. Anyhoo, one such place was this massive cave complex in Norway, and it’s still run by the same guys who were in charge back when I visited in uniform so many years ago, so I got a lot of photos I shouldn’t have. . . which is always the most fun, of course.
Don’t worry, I’m not telling the Harrison’s Fjord story again. . .
There’s a punk musician called Bitch Cassidy–gotta love it. . .

DENMARK
My first time in Copenhagen, I was walking through the Nyhavn, which is where they have canals and tall ships and basically looks like a less-dingy Amsterdam, when I saw a photo shoot going on, so of course I stopped to watch. Just as I was wondering where the model was going to change, she took off all her clothes and slipped on the next outfit. My seventeen-year-old pen wrote I LOVE DENMARK in huge letters in my journal.
And this time I’m the one who got to shoot there! So awesome. Then did my usual traditions of saying Hi to the Little Mermaid, having lunch under the statue of Hans Christian Anderson, and spending at least three hours at the Glyptotek, the local Getty museum (oops, actually spelled that Geddy at first; I was so looking forward to the Rush concert in Stockholm); remember to be quiet when you walk by Rodin’s The Thinker, because. . . well, he’s thinking, don’t bother him. And also as usual I strolled down the Stroget a few times and looked in at all the McDonald’s, but all the cuties I knew who worked there were gone, and I didn’t have time to meet the new ones. Also as usual when I’m in town, Tivoli was closed for the winter, but the theater was still in use, so I managed to catch the Four Seasons with one of my favorite violinists. With its fast-paced and frenetic passages, it might be the only classical piece that could serve as an opener for Rush.
The train from Copenhagen to Helsingør takes 44 minutes–love train schedules! But this time a friend drove me there instead and it took us all day, stopping in the countryside frequently while she pigged out on strawberries every time we stopped. Got there in time for a sunset shot of the castle, spooky. No ghosts came out in the shots, thankfully {for those of you who didn’t get that, Helsingør=Elsinore, as in Hamlet}. And check this out: In the old days the captain of every ship passing by had to state the value of ship’s cargo, with the tax calculated depending on the value of the cargo. The king had the right to buy the cargo for the price the ship’s captain stated, which kept the captains from stating prices that were too low. How smart is that?
Legoland is no longer of any interest, with there being one in Cali now. . . and since they opened a Lego store at the Copenhagen airport.
By the way, for those of you who know the story of “A Ton of Redheads”–wow, 15 years ago now!–I finally got my revenge on blonde Nikki who played that trick on me. But that’s a whole ‘nuther blog in itself. . .

SWEDEN
So, name someone else in this whole wide world who goes to see a symphony and then two days later takes in a Rush show? Huh?
A relatively balmy 50 degrees for a high on the day of the concert, with clouds but no rain or snow. Not that it matters much with the indoor Rush show, but on the walk to the subway station and then the hotel it’s way too cold for this SoCal boy, so even though I’m sweating in the heavy jacket. . .
Just so you understand how funny this is, the arena where the Rush concert was held is referred to as the Ping-pong ball, golf ball, take your pick. It’s particularly a sight coming out of the subway; Stockholm is so beautiful that you definitely do not want to ride the subway during the day, but since it was night and the traffic was heavy. . .
I’m not going to write a huge blog on the concert like I did when I saw them at the Hollywood Bowl, just a few thoughts, like the fact they considered me a guru because I knew all the words. And despite seeing it thousands of times on the internet, I still loved the South Park Tom Sawyer intro; too bad most of the crowd had no idea.
Still, it was a bit of a weird concert. On the one hand, it was the same show I saw at the Hollywood Bowl, but it was also vastly different, being indoors and with a crowd that didn’t know all the lyrics and wasn’t screaming and standing the whole time. In a way it felt more like an intimate club show, though of course the screen and the lasers and the fire belie that. Still, I might say I enjoyed this more than at the Bowl.
Ok, some not Rush stuff. I have a relatively famous photo of a sunrise over Stockholm harbor, all gray and gloomy, with the tall ship/hostel on one side and a pair of swans in the middle. On the day I flew to Helsinki, I went out to take the shot again, to see how the skyline of south Stockholm has changed, and a couple of swans come cruising through again. There’s not way it could be the same ones a good ten years later, right?
And this time I did remember to climb to the top of the city hall tower to get some shots. I don’t know why I torture myself and go to all these towers and even rent planes and choppers when I damn well know I’m afraid of heights. Especially considering I got an attack of vertigo a couple of weeks before leaving. If there’s a psych reading this who will tell me more than “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar,” let me know what my problem is. {How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb? One. . . But it has to want to change.}
OK, what’s the deal with changing from daylight savings and not telling the tourists? Almost missed my flight.

FINLAND
Got to Helsinki on the last day of the book fair! Yay! As usual I bought enough books that I had to put them in a carton and take them to the post office to ship them home. They’ll take so long to get here I’ll forget all about them, of course.
Helsinki likes to say they’re the biggest city in the world without slums (though that may not be true for long), but at the same time there really isn’t much to see in town besides beautiful blondes (and some brunettes, and a few redheads. . .), so it’s always good to get out of town. Too cold to get on the water, instead I went for a drive into the countryside to see some more fall foliage while dodging mosquitoes with some of those aforementioned blondes. That’s when the fog isn’t rolling in. Oh well, I got the requisite shots of city hall and stuff.
Helsinki is cool in one way, though: transportation. Most of the town is white or gray, but the subway is bright orange–like Mexico City, only funkier–and the trams are green. These will probably end up being the best photos. The worst part was having to photograph the famous church carved out of rock; places like that give me the chills, both literally and figuratively.
And I am going to write a whole book on birthday traditions to go along with all the photos I took of a beautiful brunette friend’s birthday. Part of the festivities was going to the local equivalent of Staples Center–Hartwall Areena, though I don’t know if it’s named after a local company–for lunch. There was a Pizza Hut and some burger joints, but we went to the Golden Star Café (yes, in English). Unable to resist, I stopped at the ticket office and, yes, Rush was playing that night, the last date on their tour. Should I. . .?
Damn right I did. To think I was so happy after seeing them once. Wonder how that’s going to look on the expense account, though. . .
Quick note: on the first song of the second act, “Far Cry,” there’s a line that goes: “You can almost see the circuits blowing!” And on cue, the guitar amp blew. Awesome.
My last night in Helsinki I stayed awake and then caught the sunrise flight back to Reykjavik, where I slept during the day, woke up and went to dinner with a friend, then flew back to El Ay, so I’m not even close to jet lagged this time. Which also means I get back to the usual grind without any time to “readjust,” so next time I might skip all that and suffer through the jet lag anyway. . .

;o)

Proof Daniela Ruah is Awesome

Already scorching hot in the morning as I walk the two blocks to the bus, again just catching it as it arrives two minutes early; I so love living on the edge. . .
Just like Friday, or what you would call “last blog,” I was a bit hungry but not enough to get lunch at Union Station, so this time I passed up Wetzel’s and went straight to McArthur Park, where I spotted a McD’s right next to the subway entrance and grabbed a large fries to go. There have been times in Europe when I bought two of those and didn’t get hungry till next morning, so I knew this would be more than enough to tide me over till I was done with what I came to see. Haven’t been in this neighborhood since the time I took the photo of the violinist dancing to the drummer in one of the previous blogs; I know it was on my birthday but can’t remember what year. I do know it wasn’t anywhere near as hot that day as I walk past hundreds of families and a pee-wee soccer game before finding a bench that didn’t burn my tushie too much. Took me a lot less time to polish off the fries than I’d hoped, so soon enough I found myself on my feet again, and from the edge of the park I could see the marquee of the Hayworth Theater a block and a half away; so much for going early to make sure I found it, but then I’m a firm believer in Shakespeare’s quote “Better three hours too soon than a minute too late.”
Walked to it anyway to see if anyone was there who could tell me when the doors would open—usually an hour earlier, of course, but for the few times it’s different, it’s well worthwhile to ask. Everything is still locked up, but with the thought that there might be a back door with people going in and out, I move over to the side of the theater, instead finding a big parking lot where indeed there are some humans offloading things from their cars. Having no idea they were heading this way, I shouted my question, and when they got closer the older man of the group said I could wait inside with them—I think having the cane all day today helped to make me look a lot more innocent and safe than I usually do, and the fact it was already near 100 degrees no doubt added sympathy.
It took me about three seconds to realize the young quiet lady smiling behind them while lugging a carton of water bottles and a flower pot was indeed the diva I came to watch, Daniela Ruah, star of NCIS: Los Angeles—Chris who? LL who?—and frequent entry in my Top 15 actresses blogs. This may indeed be the happiest moment of my life. . . not so much that I got to meet her, but that I managed to do so without making a complete foolish drooling ass of myself! Let’s hear it for self-control!
Still, it did occur to me how amazing it felt being so close to her. . . and instantly I realized how nice and. . . normal she is. I like to use the word diva as a joke, but if anything, she’s the anti-diva. I even got to tease her about how I was going to tweet all this, and luckily she laughed along. After a small discussion on Portugal she went off to do what she needed to do to get ready for her performance, leaving me with Aliah Whitmore, director-actress-person in charge of Whitmore Eclectic, with whom I had some fun moments but mostly uncomfortable silence. . . though it beats standing in the 101 degree sun. Still, I wish she would have given me something to do, like empty the bags of brownie bites. . . good thing I already ate. . .
Her brother Jake, the set designer and sound guy, also came by and offered me something to drink; gotta say everyone in this family that I met, including the older man who turned out to be none other than James Whitmore Jr., were incredibly nice and not diva-like at all. Just before they started letting other people in for the show, Daniela comes back out to run lines with Aliah, which was interesting because—knowing nothing about the play—it was strange hearing her doing a monotone, curt emotionless—almost robotic—delivery. Found out later it was only this scene, thankfully, and I did my best not to be noticed, just in case. . .
Finally let inside the theater, picking the left aisle seat of the fourth row, while I take a good look at the set in front of me: a ramshackle house with a porch in front of it, a couple of wooden deck chairs, and off in the corner the weirdest tree I think I’ve ever seen, but then I don’t watch horror movies. It was actually kinda inspiring, made me think set design might be cool thing to do. . .
These are the strangest seats I’ve ever parked my tuckus on: they seem to roll back and forth with your body weight, although it does leave a lot of foot room under the seat in front.
Aliah comes out to say hello and tell us how long our bladders have to wait till intermission. . . not in those words, of course. Then all goes dark, but it only takes a few seconds for light to come back up, and there’s Daniela. . . I mean, Katherine, in discussion with her father, who has brought her champagne for her birthday. . . except it’s not really champagne, as it is made in Wisconsin, and she rightly calls it the worst she’s ever tasted. This gives me hope there will be humorous moments throughout the play alongside what promises to be heavy stuff. Daniela is wearing furry boots and a braid that make her look incredibly cute, along with plaid pants/pajamas and a U of Chicago sweatshirt. At one point she’s at the middle front of the stage and does a squat, making herself so tiny it’s really rather amazing.
Okay, from here on it’s gonna be more of a stream of consciousness as to what tickled my interest during the play; a lot of it is going to be out of context, as I’m not going to explain the plot or anything like that. For instance, at one point she uses the word “bughouse,” which had me thinking of the movie Starship Troopers for a few seconds before I could rally from the silliness.
As much as I know it’s something every actor loves to do, I seriously cannot stand to watch crying, especially someone I admire, like Daniela. I know it’s acting, part of the script, so I guess it’s a bit of a complement that she’s making me feel this way, but I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable. . . especially when I’m paying for the privilege! {This is no doubt why I prefer seeing stuff like Avenue Q and Spamalot and Book of Mormon!}
Along comes a new character, Hal, played by Dustin, who according to the program is Aliah’s fiancée; knowing this fact would prove interesting for me later. He’s playing a math nerd, and like most of that ilk is trying to pretend he’s not; I kept thinking he should simply own his nerdiness and move on. . . but on the other hand, the fact that he’s a drummer in a band made me laugh really hard, so maybe not. . .
While not nearly as bad for me as crying, it’s still a bit difficult watching Daniela playing severe confusion, but it has to be said, she rocked this scene. At the beginning I got the sense I wasn’t going to care for this character, but wow, she’s really making me feel sorry for her. Adding to that are cackling sound effects which are so severely fucked up, meant to mimic what’s in her brain; job accomplished, very creepy. . .
With cop sirens blaring we go to black, and that’s barely the end of the first scene! Wow, this is gonna be quite a ride. . .
Now comes the scene they were rehearsing in the lobby, with Aliah, who with just a few subtle changes of wardrobe has gone from free spirit to career woman, completely different from when I was speaking to her. . . that’s why they call it acting, duh. Daniela has changed into a shirt and black tights, barefoot with her hair up. Considering how little time there was between scenes, I’m gonna guess that was what she was wearing underneath, but it was the first of many times I noticed how much I love the clothing changes, both in how it changes the mood of the scene as well as how seamless and easy they made it look. In this scene Daniela is showing so much nervous energy, incredibly skittish, along with that curt emotionless tone. It was at this point that I had what was probably my most important thought of the afternoon: with any other actress I would have found the performance amazing as well, but having gotten so used to her as Kensi, to see her play something so totally opposite made her performance all the better, at least in my eyes. It also made me realize that the show hasn’t been using her character to full potential; it’s supposed to be all about undercover work, at least in the beginning, but there hasn’t been a lot of that lately. There could surely be some scenes where Kensi’s playing something other than a bimbo or Deeks’ wife. . . something to show her range like this play did.
But enough of the editorial; I’ll just repeat that this was an excellent job of acting. At this point in the play Claire—Aliah’s character—wants to take Katherine away to Noo Yawk, trying to sell her on all the fine points, including a garlic press, which leads Daniela to utter a very heartfelt “What the fuck are you talking about?” Probably the biggest laugh of the show. The incredulousness Claire shows at Katherine talking about a math geek in a rock band—before he shows up in the scene—was also good for a big laugh, and when he does appear, or rather after he’s gone, she says, “He’s cute.” Of course he is, Aliah, he’s your fiancée! {Told ya the thing from the program would boomerang back!}
We have another change and blackout, and this time Daniela—I really should remember to write “Katherine” instead—is all in black, sitting on the rocking chair. I thought it was rather strange that she went to her father’s funeral in the black tights; it wasn’t until she stood up that I saw she was wearing a dress. There’s another scene with Hal, whom she appears to be a lot more into now. . . until he makes the classic blooper of saying, while talking about the late-night party, “Mathematicians are insane!” Oops!
From there it’s Geek Courting, as Katherine tries to show her brain credentials by talking about Sophie Germain, whom oddly enough I have heard of, not being any kind of math lover at all; Every once in a while you hear in the news that the largest prime number to date has been discovered, and they’re talking about the Sophie Germain prime.
Finding this kind of thing works for him, he kissed her, and Daniela makes it quite obvious that, while surprised, she likes it. Still, she’s playing it shy, until suddenly she blurts, “What do you do for sex?” Yup, she did; it was so out of the blue it took me a moment to laugh. At first I wondered if she was asking him if he was gay, but obviously that couldn’t be it, considering he’d already kissed her. Luckily I didn’t have to think any more about it as she kisses him back and the set goes black; this time, because they’re at the front of the stage and have further to go, you can hear them scurry off.
When we come back Daniela has taken off the dress and put the sweatshirt back on, sitting at the front of the porch on what’s no doubt the morning after. Hal comes out and it’s lovey-dovey for a while, but more in the manner of a one-night-stand–which it is, at least so far–where they still don’t know each other very well, than a real relationship. At one point they’re talking about how great the sex was, and he mentions being embarrassed, to which she replies, “It’s only embarrassing if I don’t agree.” There’s a pause as he looked very uncomfortable—and the audience laughs—before she quickly adds, “So don’t be embarrassed!”
He leaves, and after a few seconds of her looking contented, the best moment of the play occurs: Daniela, still sitting there at the front of the porch, throws her arms in the air like she’s at a rock concert; she’s even got the face for it. Then she lies down and does a fair impression of a squirming puppy getting its belly rubbed as she has a gigglefest, celebrating either having a boyfriend or just getting laid. I imagine a lot of women do this, but like her wait till he’s gone so he doesn’t get a swelled. . . head or something. Maybe it has to be seen, but it was so awesome!
And then Claire comes out, clearly hung over. Katherine is still happy, bouncing on the front of the porch to make it squeak—so incredibly cute, and nice work by Jake to design that into the set. Her happiness doesn’t last of course, as first Claire and then Hal bring her down. We get to the gist of the story—too late to mention spoiler alerts, of course. Hal had been at her place to look through her dad’s math journals, and she leads him to something completely new and possibly earth-shattering. . . and then she says it’s not dad’s work, but hers.
Dum-dum-dum! And intermission. . .
Other than a non-stop toilet and a grumpy old man waiting in line, nothing much happened during the break. Watching the stage, I see a young lady hanging laundry on the left side, so I imagine Chekhov’s gun is in effect and it’s about to be used. A few minutes later Daniela does come back out with a basket to gather said clothes—couldn’t possibly be dry already, but anyway—looking even cuter than before in jeans, grey tank, sweater, and sneakers, as well as a fluffy ponytail that makes her look all of twelve. It takes a few minutes to realize this is another flashback, to the time when the lovers first met, which is mentioned earlier. They’re sitting together in a relatively small chair as Dad has a long soliloquy—you can tell Mr. Whitmore is loving this!—and the fact that we now know how much they like each other makes it an even more interesting scene, smiling uncomfortably as they pretend to listen to the long-winded speech.
After another scene switch, with a creepy Mr. Roboto mask floating in the window, we’re back to where we left off before intermission, where she claims to have written the proof. Claire wants her to explain it, to which Katherine retorts, “It’s not a muffin recipe!” which got a big laugh. It’s crazy how well she does crazy. . . lest Daniela reads this and takes it the wrong way, I mean she obviously did a lot of research to get the small touches right, because this scene was furiously intense! Wow. . . she really brought it, all three of them did; I have to imagine this is the kind of stuff actors live for. And it’s a lot more interesting seeing Aliah and Dustin doing this scene, knowing they’re a couple—makes me wonder how deliberate it was to put that info in the program.
During the next change we see Katherine in the window, looking at dad, who’s out in the snow doing his thinking; she charges out of the house and to the front of the stage, at which point we find Mr. Whitmore coming up the aisle from the back of the theater; nice touch. This may have been the most difficult scene of all to watch, as he ignores everything she says, deep in his mental condition, until at the end he breaks down and collapses in her arms. Very painful to watch, and difficult to appreciate just how amazing the acting is, but somehow I managed.
Another change—Mr. Roboto’s in the window again—as she’s in a white shirt now, hair down; changes her look completely. Aliah does love boots–she’s in some knee-high brown ones here, and considering they’re about to catch a flight. . . didn’t think about airport security, didja? It’s another confrontation scene, with Daniela at first emotionless again, then changing to barely-controlled anger. When Claire mentions her boyfriend has a lot of connections in Noo Yawk, Katherine snarks, “Does he know anyone in the phone sex industry?” which most likely got the biggest laugh of the day. Aliah throws the airline ticket, which hits Daniela’s empty coffee cup and knocks it over; you can see Daniela standing it up again as she grabs the ticket. It made me smile, though I’m sure no one else in the audience had my attention to humorous detail.
Hal comes in for another confrontation, where he tells her he believes her about the proof now, but she basically tells him he blew it for not believing her when it mattered. “You got laid AND you got the proof. You’re a genius!” She’s crying again, looks like such a forlorn little kid. . . it really is heartbreaking. . .
After a while they calm down and he asks her to read the proof to him, and as she does she gets spotlighted, at which point he leaves while she’s still talking. . .
Crazy sounds. . . and fade. . .

Phew! I don’t know about the actors, but I’m sure sweating! Was not expecting that much intensity, for so long. It took me all of the break—about ten minutes while they scouted for chairs—to get my brain back in gear, and I can only imagine what it’s like for the actors, having to come back to being themselves and finish off the performance-high adrenaline. But everyone did look calm as they sat to take questions, this being the last performance of the run. First they introduced themselves: “Hi, I’m Daniela, I play Crazypants.”
Most of the questions centered around schizophrenia, which was apparently never mentioned outright in the play but was assumed to be what Dad was suffering from, given the symptoms. It was said that, when off meds, people suffering from this often become euphoric, showing extreme creative genius. . . which explains why a lot of them go off their meds, I suppose. {This is exactly the kind of thing I would usually research after such a project, but now I’m afraid to.} The auditory hallucinations that freaked me out so much were a part of that; hearing those things in my head only once would certainly inspire me to take my meds.
Aleah talked about how Daniela had started rehearsals “strong,” as in body language, and had to “break down” physically, which was interesting, made me want to see what she looked like at first {Thought I suppose watching DVDs of her pointing guns would suffice.} At this point a man in the front row from the Air Force talked about his family history of the disease and gave her a challenge coin, which most people didn’t understand, though she did. “You rendered me speechless; that doesn’t happen often.”
As this went on I had an interesting thought. . . well, interesting to ME: if you’ve read through this page you’d find that every year I list the sexiest women on TV, and so far Daniela has won every year. For the first time ever I didn’t find her “sexy.” Somehow she managed to turn that off, which I never would have imagined possible. . . but at the same time I definitely LIKE her more, if you know what I mean. If she wasn’t before, she sure is my favorite actress now. . .
When I returned to my physical location I heard Aliah saying that the play was “more about grieving than anything else.” Daddy Whitmore claimed it was “useful to be an imbecile,” and I’m sorry to leave that without context, but it sounds a lot funnier this way. Aliah was asked by someone who’d seen the play before why this ending was more definitive than the original, and this time she had an instant answer: “I had more empathy for her that way.”
The tree on extreme stage left is finally mentioned, carved with hideous faces; I think the guy who asked wanted to take it home. Daniela was asked if there was anyone who wasn’t supportive of her doing the play, to which she answered no, saying even her agents—theatrical, not NCIS—were “thrilled.” She also admitted that when she first brought it to Aliah “I didn’t have an effing clue what this play was about.” Daddy Whitmore summed up his acceptance of the role with, “My daughter said we’re doing this.” And Dustin, who apparently didn’t feel much for the Hal character at first, mentioned, “I wasn’t crazy about it, but now I fuckin’ love it.”
When asked about the difference between live theater and TV, Mr. Whitmore stated, “Theater’s like a sporting event. You have to keep going whatever happens,” while Daniela mentioned that in TV there were so many things out of an actor’s control, like editing. Then she came up with the line of the night: “When the lights come up, I can hear my heartbeat. Theater makes you alive.” I couldn’t stop smiling after that one. . .
Someone with a math background asked the cast how much they knew about the numbers game; Dustin’s easy reply was, “I just memorize the lines, buddy.” Daniela’s reply was, “I have trouble adding tips. . . but I passed it in school, for all you kids out there!” {And right now I’m watching the NCISLA episode where Kensi is a math tutor. . . HA!} Aliah flat out says she doesn’t like math, though she does explain that the scene where Katherine is yelling at Hal about wanting to see what’s in his backpack could be said to be game theory.
Once there were no more questions, and this being the final night—or day—the crowd was invited to join in the after-party, which featured a type of food I’m not familiar with, and considering the scents, it’s better for me to keep it that way. That’s okay, the fries were still doing their job. Instead I waited for the chance to talk to Daniela. . . and as I’m waiting, a Rush song comes on in the theater! Okay, it was Tom Sawyer, far from my fave, but still. . . forgot to ask who chose it. . .
Among other things, I told Daniela how I enjoyed the play so much I wanted to see it again right now, but I don’t think she understood my point. Oh well. After some Marine Corps talk–and a hug!–it was time for me to move away before I lost control and said something stupid. . .
So I went up to Mr. Whitmore and told him that, while watching him up on stage I got an epiphany: “Were you Robber on Battlestar Galactica?”
“I was! How the hell did you remember that?”
“I don’t know!”

Phew. Maybe I’ve simply been lucky. I don’t go to much theater, and even then only when it’s musical and funny, but I can’t remember a time when a production hasn’t been superb in every way: set design, lighting, sound, directing, and definitely acting. Everything about this show was brilliant.
One more thing: I’ve lived in Los Angeles practically all my life–only time I was really away was in the Marine Corps–and you can’t do that without having some run-ins with “Hollywood.” I’ve met many famous people, mostly actors and musicians, and plenty of Hollywood “types.” I think the attitude that comes with the name is a cliché that is overblown, though of course there are enough cases to make it somewhat true. For the most part, a good majority of the people I’ve met in the industry are like everyone else, nice and thoughtful and just being themselves.
Having said that, Daniela Ruah is easily the nicest, most down-to-earth TV star I have ever met. Period. . .
And you can bet this will be staying on the internet for centuries to come!
Can’t believe I went the whole day without stopping for ice cream!

;o)

Poetry Tuesday: Her Heart So Striken

Alcaeus lived in the 6th or 7th century BC, so this cannot be considered a rebuttal to “the face that launched 1000 ships.”

. . . Her heart so stricken, Helen
clutched her breast and wept for Paris
as he, in turn, deceived his host;
and she stole away on his boat,
abandoning her child and her husband’s bed. . .

And now how many brothers of Paris
lie planted in black earth
across the plains of Troy?
All for that woman, chariots ground to dust,
noble, olive-skinned men all slaughtered
on her behalf.

;o)

Music at Melrose Place

One time I said I didn’t like Noo Yawk, and this is what I got back: “It’s awhl raght for us ta badmouth awr city, but strangers ain’t allowed, so take a flyin’ leap off the friggin’ Brooklyn Bridge, ya bastard. What, you maybe wants a little sympathy cuz yer not in yer sunny, laid-back, lotus-eatin’ land? FUHGEDDABOUTIT!” He couldn’t explain what a lotus was, or why anyone would eat it, so I didn’t take it too seriously, but it does give me a good laugh every time I remember it.

Caught the bus in stride, which is great. . . except for the fact I’m not leaving early enough, which means soon I won’t be catching one. . . thank you, red light. A little hungry but not too much at Union Station, certainly not enough to grab something at the Subway above the subway, or cross over to Olvera Street for a bean and cheese burrito. Instead I grabbed a Wetzel’s pretzel bites bag for the first time in ages; lasted a very long time, a couple of hours and several bus routes. . .

Saw Jewel’s playing at the Saban on Wilshire, instantly thought of Paulina Logan and let her know. I’m such a good friend. . . Anyway, I got off at La Cienega, waiting for the bus to head north, on a route I hadn’t been on for quite a while. Had forgotten how huge the Blue Whale looks from the street–you know, that big shopping place–but got off at Melrose before I could get into any trouble. The address told me the location I was seeking was literally on Melrose Place, not street or avenue or boulevard, so I cut through a parking lot to see if it was that alley. . . it wasn’t, which is good because I can’t remember ever seeing so many potholes in one road, not even in third world countries. Floating around to a smaller street I found the Place in question, the walked half a block to the place in question–if you don’t get that, check the capital letter.

Today’s concert was in a tiny space called Alfred’s, with some tables outside, some inside, and then a downstairs where the food and drink were dispensed, as well as the setup for the music. Being too hot for the coffee/tea/hot chocolate in the place, I found a bottle of Sprite–yep, a bottle–which the caffeinista called a Mexican Sprite; a check of the label shows it is indeed from south of the border, as well as featuring real sugar rather than the usual “corny” stuff. Okay, enough of that.

The diva for the day was Shannon Hurley, whom I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen in over a year, last time being at the Coffee Gallery.

1 Sunrise—-This is the first time an artist has ever asked for requests to start a show. . . although I think it was all a cunning plot on her part, knowing I would pick this song, the tune I played while shooting the dawn at Machu Picchu. Too bad I didn’t get a peek at her set list. .

How to advertise. . .

How to advertise. . .

.

2 Matter of Time—-An oldie but goodie.

Throwback, or really that old? I mean, vintage. . .

Throwback, or really that old? I mean, vintage. . .

3 Mexico—–That’s more as expected; she said later she was using the place to try out new stuff. I kept glancing at the bottle, though the song wasn’t about the Sprite. . .

That is the longest keyboard evah! Talk about pianist envy. . .

That is the longest keyboard evah! Talk about pianist envy. . .

4 Stay—–Heard it before, but not often enough to have it in my head.

!IMG_2607

5 Angelyne——The famous billboard bottle blonde–who someone mentioned married a guy who owned billboards, thereby ensuring said fame–gets immortalized in a more permanent way. . . especially since that story about the husband cannot be confirmed.

Plenty of light, but worst lighting ever. . .

Plenty of light, but worst lighting ever. . .

6 Silence—-Didn’t know it from the title, but once she played it. . .

Didn't know fingers bent like that! Ew. . .

Didn’t know fingers bent like that! Ew. . .

7 Overboard——My second fave, though she didn’t mention that this time.

Headbanger, right next to keyboard.

Headbanger, right next to keyboard.

8 You Make It Better—–New one. . .

!IMG_2646

9 Blue Skies—–Everyone’s talking about making up a new song with mad lyrics, the funky new alternative to madlibs. I contributed “You are the sunflower of my heart” and left it at that.

Working on closeups. . .

Working on closeups. . .

10 Nightingale——About an old friend who sings in the dark, but all I could think of was having Zoë–from UCLA Volleyball, last name Nightingale–hear it. . .

Wallpaper

Wallpaper

11 I’ll Turn It On——Shannon mentioned playing at the Getty and writing a song for an exhibit on the Zuccaro brothers. . . at least I think that’s what she said, based on research. {Yes, I’m bored}

Didn't get enough shots, so here's an oldie

Didn’t get enough shots, so here’s an oldie

12 The Light—–Another new one, and you know how I feel about that. At the nearby table a gent in his fifties–I’m guessing–has been sitting with his computer since before Shannon got there, making comments as people are prone to do, generally liking her stuff. But now he’s about to leave, so he packs up his computer and picks up his. . . skateboard! Ha!

Sorry guys, she's taken!

Sorry guys, she’s taken!

13 How Long?—–New one.

One more fashion and hair look. . .

One more fashion and hair look. . .

14 Garden Path—–VERY old one!

She had to go move her car to avoid a ticket, and I was tapped out for the day–so to speak–so I waited for her at the door for a while. . . but after two or three whiles I gave up and headed for the bus stop, where I found I could wait on the same corner for either the 105 on La Cienega back down to Wilshire or the 10 down Melrose; did not take the 105 north to Sunset, cuz the Strip is notoriously glacial during rush hour. As might be expected, both buses came at exactly the same time, so I hopped on the 10 for fun, having not been along that route in years, but nothing interesting presented itself. Did recognize the two Argentinean grills as well as the Groundlings, but couldn’t remember the name of the music venue that usta be there. Spotted a place called Franco’s on Melrose, which doesn’t sound like my kinda place but has to be checked out if only for the name; knew I shoulda trademarked it. Can’t remember the last time I passed by the gates of Paramount Instead of getting off at Vermont and walking to the subway, I stayed on all the way downtown, over an hour. . . good thing I didn’t have to piss. . .

;o)

Travel Thursday: Around the World 2004 {+ Olympics}

How to shut up an airhead:
“That’s an old wife’s tale,” I told the bleached blonde, then grinned naughtily. “Guess that makes you an old wife. . .”

This time on Travel Thursday, we start classical–Rome and Athens–then go mysterious, with India and assorted sundries. . .
I think this is the last trip I took that lasted more than 4 weeks. . .

Rome
Whenever I start a trip to Europe, or start a trip IN Europe, I usually go to London first {note from present: this has changed since the last terrorist scare; my new first home is Amsterdam}. But this time, for whatever reason–oh yeah, models–I ended up flying straight to Rome. Granted I’ve been to London more times than Rome, but I never get tired of exploring London, maybe because I’m not afraid of crossing the street there, despite the cars going the wrong way. You know the old saying: men in Italy drive with their flies open!
Anywayside, I did finally get to check out the Temple of Mithras this archaeologist always wanted to gawk at, though I have to admit it was a little disappointing. As always when in Rome–{do as the Romanians do–chuckle} I visited that little pyramid that appears to be part of the wall, then Tivoli–not as fun as the Danish one, though I wonder which one was named first?–and of course the Castel San’t Angelo, where I always ask the tour guide when we were on the battlements, “Is this where Tosca threw herself to her death?” One guide actually screamed at me “That was fiction!” which only made me all the more excited to screw with the next guide. And no, I’m not usually that mean. . . I swear!
Shut up. . .

Athens
Anyone else find it ironic that Athens–Greek flavor–pushed so hard to get the 1996 centennial Olympics, which instead went to Atlanta, where some of the events were held in Athens. . . Georgia? No, just me? Screw you.
As some of you who know me have found out, mostly to your detriment, I’m exceedingly, disgustingly honest. However, it is extremely hard to keep such a high moral compass 24/7, 365, so some days you have to take yourself out of the lineup for a day, rest up those ethical muscles. Not that I would deliberately hurt anyone, of course, but a few minutes or hours of being selfish never killed anyone. . . well, it probably has, but stick with me, okay?
As usual for big events like the Olympics, hotel rooms are sold out months if not years in advance, and if there happens to be a room left over, or a cancellation, the price skyrockets like it was art from a painter who just died. In fact, there were people in Athens renting out crappy rooms for the price of a luxury suite in DC. My bosses in Germany, not wanting to deal with all this–the company usually makes my flight and hotel arrangements–decided they would simply give me a $700 per diem and let me sort it out for myself. I made the required stink about this, and they promised to reward me for it next trip. Of course this was all done by e-mail, so they could not see me grinning. . . hmmm, why was I smiling? Because I had already arranged to stay with an old friend at his place in almost-downtown Athens. For free, though I did buy the family dinner every night; his wife would not thank me for the weight gain. So, $700 a day, for 3 weeks. . . Hey, they’re a huge corporation, they can afford it. Nobody got hurt. . .
And we’re back to my usual personality. . .
Do you remember how there was this huge hubbub because Athens wasn’t finishing up the stadiums in time? I don’t know how many of you got to see this during the opening ceremonies on TV, but right before it started, this workman came out to center stage, bent down, and pounded a nail to finish off the job. Then the festivities began. Gotta love a people who can laugh at themselves. . .
Two weeks of shooting sports tends to blur together. In world cups you at least get some days off between games, and the only time I work for even 3 days in a row is the Long Beach Grand Prix. I couldn’t even tell ya what I shot, since as soon as I finished with the rolls I hand them off to a developer in the press area, who e-mails them–not the rolls, the photos–to Germany. On the other hand, I can’t remember ever thinking “I hope I got that one, it’s gonna be an awesome photo!” so I don’t care that much.
Being completely bored of shooting sports two weeks in, and not seeing much of my UCLA friends who were competing, I told my bosses in Germany that I’d gotten a tip on the Venus de Milo’s arms and wanted to go dig for them. . . on Milos, obviously. The German words they said basically translated to a big fat Teutonic “What-ever!” so I took off for the island and two days of doing nothing, which I’m really good at.
Refreshed, I came back to Athens and ran into another photographer who works for the same German syndicate, except he does men’s sports. He was bored too and wanted to get out of town, so I offered to give him my assignment to shoot the women’s soccer semi that Germany was playing in, in another town, not Athens. He jumped for it, so I got to stay and watch one of my best friends have an Olympic gold placed around her neck after the softball final. Excuse me, have to wipe away the tears. . . {want to know which one? Remember an earlier game with an amazing diving catch in center field, then she gets up and doubles the runner at first? That’s her. . .}
Speaking of tears, how many of you remember the little girl at the closing ceremonies? Here’s some tissue if you do; if you don’t, go get the tissue and then google or youtube it.

India
This shows just how stupid I am. Who goes to the Taj Mahal, probably the most photographed building on the planet, and finds a new angle to shoot it? Not that I knew what a fuckup it would be at the time, but there was this dilapidated building and a weird tree and the Taj in the distance, thought I could make a social comment out of this. Well. . . nah, I’ll put it in the epilogue. I do find it ironic that most women who visit this place think “How romantic!” when they hear the rich bastard built the Taj Mahal for his wife; um, wait for the part about how he built it as her tomb AFTER she died. . .
Anyhoo, from there it was on to Udaipur, which was heaven for this James Bond geek, especially staying at the floating palace. Then on to Khajuraho, where I’m told I took over 100 rolls of film, making sure I got every angle of every erotic sculpture carved into those temples. {note from the present: nowadays that’s, what, a 4G memory card?} And this time I did not take my usual trip to Varanasi, which I will always think of as Benares, simply because there’s nothing left for me to photo there.

Sri Lanka
Can I geek out for a moment here? I got to meet Arthur C. Clarke! He let me use his computer to check my e-mails! How amazing is that? The king of hard science fiction lets me use the machine he’d probably thought up in the 50s but never imagined would be in every household. I didn’t even ask for his autograph or have a picture taken; this was more than enough for me. . .

No Seychelles!
Got the idea at the last moment, so I asked around, and was told there was a flight from New Delhi to the islands, with one change of plane. In Mumbai? No. Singapore, maybe? Uh-uh. PARIS! They wanted me to fly from India to France and then the Seychelles! WTF? So instead I tootled off to Singapore for yet another visit to Raffles and the Night Zoo before getting back on schedule in Oz.

Australia
I spent most of the time in Australia recovering from the past parts of the trip. Other than reconfirming my thought that Perth is reminiscent of San Diego–and of course shooting some models–I just took it easy. Visited friends in Sydney and Auckland, spent a day in Hawaii, and back home.

Epilogue–nothing ever goes as planned. . .
4 months later, in El Lay
There’s a small awards ceremony every January in El Lay, where the best photos of the year are honored. I am always required to attend–at least they pay for the rented tux–but I always manage to sneak out after a while, and usually end up going somewhere else for the rest of the night. . . in the tuxedo. Like the time I went to a UCLA women’s basketball game, scarfing popcorn and getting butter. . . on the tuxedo, you guessed it. So, this year I actually get nominated for that Taj Mahal shot, and not just in the journalism category, but the BIG prize, at the end of the night. So I had to be there till the end, no sneaking out. Ordinarily not a big deal, except that for months I’d been planning to go to the Temple Bar in Santa Monica because my favorite band, Raining Jane, was having their CD release party that night!
FUCK!
And then I didn’t even win. . .
FUCK!

;o)

UCLA Archaeology Open House 2013.0

Two weekends in a row of archaeology at UCLA—that’s gotta be a record. . .
So the first crucible of the day: celebrations at Olvera Street for Cinco de Mayo are starting on Saturday the Fourth, so Union Station is making sure everyone knows about it by having strolling mariachis throughout the cavernous building. . . all day long. There aren’t that many things in the world I hate, but mariachi music is definitely one of them. Coming out of the bus and crossing the loading circle, I enter the building and get on the escalator, wary for the bedazzled-suited ones. . . and almost as though they were waiting for me, they start up at the foot of the escalator! Yeow! I could even hear them in the restroom over the flushing! Fuck, what god did insult now? And don’t say the god of music, there’s no way a deity could stand this stuff either. . .
Then coming out of the subway, a Wilshire Express flashes by, empty. Unfortunately I’m going to Subway {sandwich shop this time} first, and as I wait in line another empty zooms by; looks like that kind of day. By the time I’m ready to move along I have to wait 20 minutes for the next one, and even then it’s scrunching in next to big people in the back. . . better than standing, but not by much.
The walk from Wilshire to campus was nice, though, and pretty empty, though not as much as last week. Quick detour to the newsstand to get my usual mother’s day gift–word searches–and then straight on to Jamba; I may be in a rut with Subway and Jamba, but it’s a delicious rut, so. . .
Again just like last week, I’m way early. A quick glance down at the little plaza shows no one has set up yet, so I take a stroll over to the powwow, which was pretty much the same as previous years, although I think there were less vendors. Still way too early, I go back to Ackerman, having to pass what looked like a kendo exhibition on Bruin Walk; wonder who scheduled that and Cinco de Mayo at the same time as Archaeology open house.
Mmmmmm, Jamba. . .
Finding a seat in the bookstore, I grab what I’m sure is the same copy of Clockwork Angels I’ve been reading piecemeal for the last few months. Wasn’t sure where I’d left off, but found it quickly enough; Owen was off the airship and was about to go hunting for the seven cities of Cibola. Read through that part, then stopped, though I’m anxious to get to the section described in The Wreckers song.
Good enough. Time to head back to Cotsen, this time for good. As always my first stop is Rock Art, and yes there’s Deidre, remembering me and showing me the book is finally out. And Rachel is there, remembering me! Or at least the shirt. . . {you should probably read about last year’s event to get why all this is important; do so here}
Some students entered the room and Dr. Von Tillburg was happy to talk to them, mentioning how African, Oceanic and Native American art got lumped together when they had nothing in common. I mentioned they were the leftovers, which she didn’t take well, but she then said there probably wasn’t enough room for all of them to be individual, which was exactly what I meant. Then I told Deidre, “I got out of that one smoothly,” which made her giggle.
Soon after a quick trip to Egyptology, where I spent a few giggly minutes with Dr. Bernard, I found the Kinneys in the childrens’ area, of course, making masks. Took Sean on a quick tour of what would likely be the most kid-friendly labs, and he and Deidre hit it off really well; luckily he didn’t embarrass me the way he likes to with babes.
So the kids were happy in conservation, especially with Vanessa doing the UV–she was really into it too, more so than I have ever seen her. After that came a lot of fun in Egypt, with some great time with Rachel, who I found even more interesting this time. I love how all the Egyptologists know their glyphs, which comes in handy when writing them for kids. . . and Christiane, who of course needed her name in hieroglyphs too; I guess when you have a band called Riddle the Sphinx you’re allowed such a moment. After one last moment with Rachel, where I told her about a Facebook conversation I’d had with Dr. Cooney about Moby Dick in glyphs–there’s no sign for “whale” in Egyptian, and when I said “fat crocodile” she really hooted–we ushered the kids out, where Ireland instantly had a tantrum outside of Southwest. Zaiden didn’t want to go into Rock Art either, so Sean took him out to flint knapping and I went into the lecture, and that was that.
Having had such fantastic speakers in the past few years, from Drs. Cooney to Stanish to Vranich to Cooney again, how could I expect any less from such an enormous figure as Lord Renfrew, famed archaeologist and member of the House of Lords? His speech was titled Before Religion and had to do with his excavation in the Cyclades. Maybe I was so pumped up for it I oversold it in my mind, but in the end I was disappointed and couldn’t wait for it to be over. Dr. Monica Smith, on the other hand, showed what an awesome speaker she is in her intro for him.
There were still plenty of highlights. I’d never seen Early Greek/Aegean sculpture, which turned out to be very angular; I could see why he said it had influenced Picasso and Braque. Some of the statuettes looked funny with the crossed arms, and there was one a little more refined that sure looked surprised, but I don’t believe I got the name right, as there was no sign of it on the internet.
Lord Renfrew spent some time comparing various cultures around the world, one being Caral, Peru, which had a small steppe pyramid I’d never seen. But soon enough we were back in Greece, where he spoke about “ritual deposition,” where sacred objects were broken on purpose, like Greek dishes or Viking cups, so no one could use it in a profane way.
Monkeys painted on walls in the Aegean? That just seems weird. . .
With the lecture starting at 2:30 and food not allowed in the auditorium, I got hungry pretty quickly, but wasn’t about to walk out on Lord Renfrew. . . not that I was afraid of being hanged or anything, but I didn’t want to be seen as disrespecting him. Didn’t stay for Q&A though. Back to some more labs, but nothing really to see, so feeling suddenly very tired I’m off to Ackerman for another Jamba, barely getting there before they closed, then to the lounge, where the TV showed the Kentucky Derby had just finished, for a very late lunch and, more importantly sitting down in a much more comfortable chair.
Even then as I walked out a half hour later I was still plenty tired. Immediately missed the Sunset bus, just like last week, and by the time I got to Wilshire I was really dragging. The Express came quickly, but there was quite a crowd, so I let it loud, about to wait for the next one when a regular 20 came around the corner, about to start its run and therefore EMPTY! Yay. Although on the run we got passed by another 20 and 3 720s, so it was pretty slow going.
I don’t remember much after that. . . which is damned scary. . .

;o)