Monday, December 31, 2007
Now the issue of peace is a bit trickier. Many of us simply cannot understand why fellow human beings insist on waging war or carrying out terrorist acts on our fellow humans. I know that it is often done in the name of religion or freedom or some other catch phrase but it seems to me that the taking of other people's lives, or enslaving them, or subjecting them to any form of harassment is simply wrong. We teach our kids that it is wrong to bully other children. Why is it that we cannot convince our political leaders and the religious zealots of the world that it is equally wrong to bully groups of people or even other nations?
So, in wishing those of you who pass this way a Happy New Year, I hope that all of us will work, pray, cajole, vote and do anything we possibly can do to move this fragile planet in the direction of peace. Oh, I wish everyone health and happiness too, but if we continue on the path of violence and destruction, health and happiness are rather moot.
I know this is not my usual upbeat view on life. (My wife calls me a Pollyanna.) My optimism seems to be for my immediate, daily existence. But when it comes to the future world in which my children and grandchildren will live long after I am gone, I get more and more disturbed by what I see around me and on television and in the papers. Today's world is getting to be a much less pleasant place to live.
Enough of this downbeat sermon as 2007 comes to a close. Let the smile return to my face. Let me see the intrinsic goodness in humankind in which I have so ardently believed.
Have a very Happy New Year and a year of health, happiness and, most of all, peace!
Saturday, December 29, 2007
Bob Welsh was a friend of mine and one of the most unique people I have ever known. Often described as being "crusty" or a "curmudgeon," both of which he was, he also was one of the most delightful, fiercely independent individuals I have ever known. And I only really knew him in one aspect of his life, his love and interest in theatre. He was a phenomenal performer as is his wife Gloria Maxwell with whom I have shared the stage in 2 productions. He was an unselfish actor who could play comic and serious roles equally well. He had an unbelievable sense of timing on stage.
Cancer had taken over Bob's body and life. He fought it valiantly for many years but finally decided several months ago that enough-was-enough and decided that there would be no more treatments. I last saw him a couple of months ago along with fellow old f—t actors Ron Rudolph and John Brigante. Bob was obviously very sick and we knew that his remaining time with us was very short. But he was the gracious host and raconteur, telling wonderful, funny, theatrical stories with that beautiful twinkle in his eyes. As usual, he regaled us with tales of his life along the way. I don't know if our visit helped Bob, but he sure cheered us up. He was going to leave this life exactly as he lived it; on his own terms when he was ready. His last breaths were taken on December 6 with close family at his side.
At a memorial yesterday, I learned about parts of Bob's life about which I knew little. His role as a nurturing father who made sure his 4 kids would grow up as self-sufficient thinkers. His love of political debate especially with those, like me, whose views were so different from his. His long battle with the IRS over the payment of income taxes. His achievement as a Life Master in Bridge. His acceptance of all people at face value, never looking for ulterior motives. His genuine love of people. Listening to the comments of his family and friends, I wished that I had known him for more than just the past decade.
A friend is gone but will not be forgotten. As I sit here thinking of Bob, I can hear his distinctive voice starting yet another story, "Let me tell you about the time. . . " Bob Welsh already is missed by all of us who knew him.
Thursday, December 27, 2007
A couple of weeks ago I came across another Tony Hillerman novel, Skeleton Man, which I had not yet read. I like Hillerman’s mysteries, partly because they provide insight into Navajo Culture as they follow the exploits of Joe Leaphorn, Jim Chee and the Navajo Tribal Police. In this particular novel, there is an added dimension of coming to understand Hopi culture as well,
It was a good and quick read; just right for my morning walks. But Skeleton Man left me feeling a bit empty. There just wasn’t the same level of mystery that I have come to expect of Hillerman’s books. What was going on seemed fairly clear cut; the only real excitement came toward the end of the book and the resolution of the conflict between the “good’ and the “bad” folk.
Now I am turning to an interesting novel written by one of Donna’s many cousins. Actually, when I ordered it, I thought it was a memoir, not fiction. The book is Rub Up: Musings of a Navy Corpsman by Mitchell Rycus.
It is based on Mitch’s experiences in the Navy during the Korean War period. I’ll hold off on substantive comments until I finish the novel other than to say that it is obvious, to me, that it is autobiographical.
Wednesday, December 26, 2007
This being my 200th post since starting the blog on February 23 of this year, I thought it fitting that I add a 2nd milestone to the day. I have just returned home from the offices of the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). I turned in my membership forms and paid my initiation fee. Just over 13 years after I first got up on stage at the age of 56, I am now a member of two of the three major actors unions. My AFTRA membership was effective December 13, 2006 and the 1st anniversary of that event was a partial contributor to my finally qualifying for SAG.
Obviously, I am grinning broadly today. As a rather late blooming actor, I feel that I have paid my dues (figuratively as well as literally) and earned my membership in the guilds. Like most other actors, I do not make a living performing but I know that the varied experience gained since I first set foot on stage has brought great joy and a sense of fulfillment to my life.
Monday, December 24, 2007
So, I took my old Sony camera with me again this morning and shot pictures of the banners along my walk, most of them hung specially for the holiday season. The first 2 are on the houses of our next door neighbors:
Around the corner, there lives a veterinarian who is actually flying 2 banners although it is hard to see both because of the overgrowth of foliage:
Other holiday banners included the following:
Now, not everybody had holiday banners. With the annual Rose Bowl coming up on New Year's day, partisans in the neighborhood displayed the colors of the favorites:
That's the University of Southern California (L) and the University of Illinois (R)
A San Diego Charger fan got his word in too, although, in recognition of the holiday, both of the following banners appeared on the house:
Finally, there was one house displaying 2 banners from upstairs windows, rather than hanging them out front:
Saturday, December 22, 2007
The first is the view looking down from the top of Via Zumaya in Palos Verdes Estates toward the Pacific Ocean:
The second is of a pile of rocks in a field at the end of Via Barcelona. Every time I pass this was, I think that a neighbor provided a stone blanket over the grave of a pet that died but I really have no facts to back up that thought:
And finally, turning left from the rock pile, I was looking out along a canyon:
Yes, those are the kinds of views I am treated to when walking on clear days. And, for those who read the previous post, I have replaced the photo of the "Peacock Gate" (shot from my cell phone) with a much better one taken with my camera today.
Even after 26 years living in southern California, I still am not totally adjusted to this kind of weather for the holidays. But I do like it.
Friday, December 21, 2007
It wasn't a spectacular view, but it got me thinking about a house about ½ block away from where I spotted the proud birds. It's a house that was built by people who obviously loved peacocks. [I think I mentioned in an earlier post that folks either love or hate these loud, brash creatures; you just don't find many people who are neutral about them.] I could not get a picture of the etched glass front door but I did get the following photo of a large wooden gate toward the side of the house.
We have long admired this gate although the family that had it erected no longer lives in that house. While wooden peacocks are not as majestic as the real thing, in my opinion, the gate adds a bit of class to the neighborhood. In fact, as I recall, it was in this driveway several years ago where I first saw a peacock with his tail feathers fanned out fully. Unfortunately, I did not have a camera with me that day but I will always carry the memory with a smile.
Thursday, December 20, 2007
I received a phone call Monday evening that led to a booking to work on a commercial shoot yesterday. But the Casting Director (CD) who called was a little evasive about exactly what the commercial was about. Even the e-mail that came Tuesday evening was less than clear on exactly what was being advertised. So I googled the production company and discovered that they specialized in political commercials and many of their clients held a political viewpoint that was far different from my own. I was a little uncomfortable but son Seth reminded me that I was an actor and it was a paying job.
Then the proverbial light bulb went off. The company name sounded familiar. I looked back at all my bookings for 2007 and discovered that I had worked for them before. Last April, I posted the commercial on the Indian Gaming Compacts in which I appeared. Well, those compacts had passed through legislative process and are now on the February, 2008 ballot as referenda to be considered by California voters. At that point I felt a little better.
When I arrived at the crew parking site yesterday morning, people were still a little evasive. Finally, when we were on the van transporting us to the set, a mansion in East Pasadena, the CD confirmed that the commercial was for the Indian Gaming Compacts and revealed that the secretiveness was because the central figure in the commercial which we were about to shoot was none other than Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Oh, and we were warned over and over during the day that we to take no pictures and to turn off our cell phones with cameras.
The shoot was a lot of fun. I even got a chance to see again 2 of the Morongo Indian representatives who I first met in the shoot earlier this year. And, in addition to my usual spot in the background, I was given a 2-word line (along with a bump in pay) that was shot separately from the gathering that was at the heart of the days proceedings. I might get a picture of my brief moment under the lights if the official still photographer actually does e-mail me one of the pictures he took as they were setting up "my scene."
So, if you live in California, when you are being inundated with political commercials in January, in one of those supporting the Indian Gaming Compacts, you just might catch a glimpse of The Ancient One dramatically uttering the words, "Senior Citizens." Well, maybe not really dramatically. . .but it was a line and I remembered it for all 3 takes they did of the scene.
Yesterday was a good day and I had had a chance to work with a number of old and new friends.
Added note (December 21, 2008): I reread what I had posted above and realized that I really didn't say anything about the Governor other than he was there. Actually, there was no great excitement on the set. He arrived mid-afternoon, came to the set where we had been positioned, delivered his lines over several takes, shook hands with a few of the people there and left. I am not one of those who is "star-struck" by him as are too many of the political folks who seem to gush when in his presence. My only surprise is that he appeared to be significantly shorter in stature than his appearances in film and TV would suggest. And I did notice that, in shooting his part of the commercial, they used camera angles shooting up toward him which will make him look taller than he is. In summary, there was nothing more special about his presence than there is with any other name star.
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Arghh!! You know, it's that feeling when something goes wrong. I had that feeling last night when I went looking for my cell phone and it was nowhere to be seen. I called it from the house phone several times but never heard the sound of its ring which is not terribly unusual because reception inside our house is rather spotty.
I hate to admit that I feel absolutely lost without my cell phone. Not that I use it all that often, but I am comforted by its presence. And most of my acting jobs usually start with a call to my Nokia 6102. It is there for me when I need it. Where could it be?
I then began backtracking my day from the moment I last remembered the phone in my hand until I got home. I went back to Torrance Memorial Medical Center; I had last used the phone as I exited the Cardiac Rehab Center and turned the ring back to normal from silent as well as read a text message from my oldest son. I rewalked back up and down the steps I had used as I descended from the 5th floor after my workout. I checked the elevator in the parking structure and the area where I had parked. And before you wonder about it, yes, I thoroughly checked the inside of my car. I then drove back to Costco where I shopped before coming home. No luck in the parking lot, in the store, at the exit or with "lost and found." I finally came home thoroughly depressed. There's that "Arghh!!!!" again.
This morning I prepared to stop in to see a client of mine and then head on down to the cellular store to buy a new phone. I just had to have one with me and it could not wait. I commiserated with myself about the arduous task of re-entering all the saved numbers. I thought sadly about the stored photos that were contained on the SIM card in my phone. I was resigned to having to get a new device and start over again. As I was leaving the house, I decided to exit via the garage; that was the way I came in when I got home from Costco yesterday. Then a thought crossed my mind. Yesterday was trash pick-up day in our neighborhood. After I brought in the groceries yesterday afternoon, I went back outside and brought in the empty trash barrels. In the garage, I picked up one of the barrels and. . . .there it was, my Nokia 6102.
Ahh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Need I say more; I was whole again.
Sunday, December 16, 2007
Oh, a footnote. . .generated by the last photo. Lots of folks in this area hire tree trimmers to shape some of the trees and keep them looking fit and trim. And I did brighten a couple of the pictures to make them a bit more visually pleasing. Enjoy!
Saturday, December 15, 2007
I finished Steve Berry's Alexandria Link and it was a wonderful read. This was Berry's 5th book, following on The Templar Legacy and being populated with many of the same characters (e.g. Cotton Malone, Henrik Thorvaldsen, Cassopeia Vitt, Stephanie Nelle) who were major protagonists in the earlier book.
There are two aspects of these books that draw me in. First, the characters are human, not superhuman. By that I mean they have the emotions of real people and those emotions color their actions, no matter how heroic they may be. Secondly, in the blending of fact and fiction, Berry presents us with stories that are plausible. He starts with what is known historically and embellishes it with a tale of what could have been the case. He selects topics about which there has been historical and theological controversy and weaves wonderful, thoughtful mysteries that keep the reader on edge. We can imagine for ourselves how different the world might have been if the stories had been true, or the new fictionally discovered "facts" had been uncovered for all to see.
One other factor that made The Alexandria Link interesting to me is that I picked it up just after reading Berry's first novel, The Amber Room. The contrast in writing between the two is amazing. It was clear how far Berry has come as a writer. I don't mean that as a criticism of the first novel. I do mean it as a compliment to the author's evolution in story telling. The first book was very good. The Alexandria Link was much better and more satisfying. The characters were developed more fully. Their participation in the unwinding story moved forward naturally. I never felt that anything was contrived in any way. I think we should read author's first and latest novels side-by-side more often. It really allows us to see how they develop in the way they exhibit their craft.
Alas, the "books-to-be-read-shelf" is bare for the moment. It feels strange to embark on my daily walk empty-handed. It's time to get to the bookstore and obtain more fuel to feed the mind's appetite.
Friday, December 14, 2007
How could this happen? Is it the added pressure that is placed on players who used to just enjoy the game? Is it the millions of dollars per year offered to the highest achievers as long as they maintain their "numbers?" I, for one, have never understood why people need to earn such outrageous sums of money that they could quit today and never have to work again. [In fairness, I feel the same way about upper management in corporations; I am not just blaming athletes or high powered agents.] What has happened to our sense of what is important in life? Both of the daily newspapers I read (Los Angeles Times and Daily Breeze) had front pages today filled with Mitchell's report and local reactions but nothing about the war in Iraq, or gasoline prices, or the impact of the housing market on the economy. Maybe I should be happy; nothing of real importance was there to upset my morning reading today.
Yes, I know that Major League Baseball will survive. Yes, I know that just because names have been mentioned, that is not the same as proven fact. Yet, in the wake of what our national pastime has become, I am afraid that like Mighty Casey, baseball has struck out.
Let's see now. It's only a bit over 2 months until spring training begins. Then I will be able to begin to see how my beloved teams (Detroit Tigers and Los Angeles Dodgers) were improved by their off-season acquisitions. And I too will truly believe what is written on one of my favorite T-shirts:
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
When I went outside in the morning, it was beautiful! Ice covered branches are a sight to behold, not unlike this picture I found that was taken in Springfield this week.
But it was also treacherous. Everything was a sheet of ice. Power lines were down everywhere. And even when the temperature warmed, there was still the lack of electricity with which to contend. As it happened, the weight of ice on the wires tore the neck where they connected to the back of the house right out from the wall. It would be about 8 days before I had my electricity restored.
At first, it was an adventure. Food was cooked in a Weber Grill; at least as long as there was unspoiled food to cook. The first night, heat came from a fire in the fireplace. I remember waking to a smoked filled room about 5:00 a.m., apparently from a burning log that had rolled forward on the hearth. Opening windows helped clear out the smoke but did nothing to keep in any warmth.
Three days after the storm, power was restored to the neighborhood; but it would be about 5 more days before I could get an electrician out to reconnect the lines to the house. Fortunately, the lady next store had her power restored and she let me run a very long insulated extension cord from her house to mine. That provided one electrical outlet to connect to extension cords to the most necessary items (refrigerator, radio, a couple of lights) until the repairs were done to the house.
Yes, these memories of 30 years ago came back as I watched TV the past few days. I truly feel for those affected. I know the helpless feeling of being without electricity. I remember that discovery of how little we can do without power, including not being able to turn on the TV or radio news to find out what is happening. It is a very lonely, lost feeling. Today, all we can do is hope that the lives of those who are affected can be restored to normal as quickly as possible.
Ironically, I've never taken a ride on the trolley. Maybe on our next trip.
Monday, December 10, 2007
Oh how I wish I could have taken these from my camera rather than the cell phone. But of you squint hard enough, you to might be able to enjoy the vista.
I do like my snow at some distance. In this case it is probably about 60 miles away.
Saturday, December 8, 2007
There are also different transliterated spellings of the holidays name; thus the title of this posting. Hanukkah and Chanukkah are the most usual ways we see it spelled in English, depending on who is trying to write the Hebrew word in our alphabet. I won't try to explain the pronunciation of "ch" here. If you haven't learned Hebrew or a guttural language, it comes out as a "k" or "h" sound depending on the word, but neither comes close to the true "sounds-like-clearing-your-throat" sound of the "ch."
Many see Chanukkah and Christmas as being related because they fall roughly at the same time and involve gift giving. But when I was young, there were no gifts given on Hanukkah, other than some "gelt," a small amount of money given to the children. Don't worry, I was not deprived of gifts as a child. My parents simply gave them to me on Christmas, "observing" the secular, commercial nature of the celebration in this country.
In our house, Donna takes great pride in decorating for the holiday. Below are pictures taken outside the house of some decorations and a lit Star-of-David which sits in a front window.
The inside of the house is decorated too! Much of Donna's Hannukiah collection (Hanukkah menorahs) is displayed on the hearth in front of the fireplace.
And the coffee table has another Hannukiah and lost of dreidels (a top like toy).
The family room counter also is well decorated this year.
And one last photo, that of the dining room table, taken just before friends in our Havurah arrived for the annual Hanukkah party on Thursday evening.
So there you have the visual presentation of Hanukkah in our house. And the food was wonderful too! I tried to keep my cardiologist happy by avoiding the traditional potato latkes, sneaking only 2 during the meal and using apple sauce instead of sour cream as the garnish. But to no avail, just looking and thinking about them led to a 2 pound weight gain overnight.
As this holiday season progresses, I wish a Happy Chanukkah to all. And may the coming year be one of peace and good health. Gut Yom Tov!
Friday, December 7, 2007
Yeah, I know! By writing and posting this I am exhibiting just the opposite of a block. No, this doesn't count; this is just a space filler in hopes that regular readers will continue to check in when I do have something to say.
Well, maybe this weekend. I do have to clear my head of all those thoughts that are swirling about. Happy Chanukkah!
Wednesday, December 5, 2007
The only picture I will include here is one of The Ancient One as President Leo Cain during a protest rally. The three actresses seen in the photo are (l-r): Sunee Foley (Young Pam), Brandy Harris (Student-Michelle [partially hidden]) and Amber Jackson (Young Stella). We are all on a podium that stands about 6 feet above the stage. At the moment this was taken, President Cain was voicing his anger over proposed cuts in the state's higher education budget in 1967.
Okay, that's the last I'll say about the play. But do stop by and see Tom's photos at the link above.
Tuesday, December 4, 2007
The picture was taken in 1938. The photographer was my father. I believe he was using a Speed Graphic camera (which 15 years later I used as a sports photographer for my high school newspaper). On several occasions over the years, this photo was entered in school baby picture contests. It always won. My father was a great photographer who did all his own photo processing in a darkroom in our basement. And this post gets me closer to the original intent of this blog; to reflect on our family history and leave a written/visual archive for my children and grandchildren.
Okay, enough for the not-really-a-mystery; the picture is of The Ancient One at a very tender age. I guess that is today's bit of shameless self-promotion.
I finished Steve Berry's novel The Amber Room and along the way I learned what Amber
is ("fossil resin or tree sap that is appreciated for its colour") if the entry in Wikipedia is accurate. I also used Wikipedia to learn about the Amber Room that is at the core of this international thriller. The book was enjoyable and moved quickly, even with all the "factual" information it contained. Berry aided the reader by a "Writer's Note" at the end of the novel that helped separate that which was historically accurate and what was the product of the novelist's fictionalized storytelling.
Sunday, December 2, 2007
In his Director's Notes, Jim Bell points out that after having first seen the play in 1983, he added it to the list of shows he wanted to do. He related a story that he heard that playwright Michael Frayn came "up with the idea for the play while watching one of his own plays from backstage. He thought what was going on backstage was funnier than what was being performed out front for the audience." And that is apparently what led to the writing of this wonderful farce.
The 9 students in the cast did an outstanding job. Farce is not easy to perform; it requires both physical and mental agility and a great sense of comedic timing. I resist singling out any single actor or two because "good" farce requires a true, unselfish ensemble performance. I suspect that most high schools would have difficulty staging Noises Off. However, PVPHS always seems to have an abundance of outstanding student actors and this production was no exception.
This afternoon's performance was both wonderful and a particularly fun experience for those of us in the audience who have worked in live theatre at any level. Bravo!
Saturday, December 1, 2007
As I was walking this morning, I spotted a business card lying in the street. It was back side up and someone had written on it:
It appeared to be a short shopping list reminding someone to purchase "PVC cement" and "Red Hot Chilys" [sic]. I assume that the "1/2 pint" refers to the chilies. I wondered what this could possibly mean. Is it possible that spicy PVC cement does a better job than when it is blandly applied?