Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Best Wishes for a Happy New Year

Well, another year has passed and The Ancient One is delighted to be sending out greetings and wishes for a wonderful 2009. Our family holiday letter this year, penned by Donna, ended with, "We wish you all a year of joy and fulfillment, health and peace of mind, and for all of us a new start, a renewed spirit, and the love and affection of friends and family."

While I generally avoid political statements in these meanderings, I do feel that we are coming to the end of an 8 year national nightmare. While I have no illusions about the economy turning around immediately after January 20, I am hopeful that we are entering a new era that will gradually bring peace, prosperity and respect for what this country stands for. I am looking forward to a national leadership that listens to people and other nations and does not simply try to impose a narrow view of what is right and wrong on the rest of the world.

So, to all of you who pass this way, have a Happy New Year. I look forward to hearing about your thoughts and the events in your lives as they unfold in the coming year.

Life is good! Let us all enjoy what we have and strive to make it better.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Peahens on Parade

A few days ago I wrote about the PEACOCKS parading on our street (see previous post). Well, today was Ladies' Day as I spotted 3 PEAHENS strutting along while I was on my morning walk. (You may have to click on the photo to get a clear view.)

Shortly after I took the above picture with my cell phone camera, I was sitting at home and heard walking on the roof. Although I quickly dashed outside with the good camera and discovered that it was the hens I was hearing above my head, they would not cooperate and I could not get a clear shot.

That's it. The last peafowl photo of 2009. Enjoy!

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Holiday Peacocks on Parade

As I went outside this morning to pick up the newspapers, there before me were 4 adult peacocks with magnificent tail feathers parading up the sidewalk on the other side of the street. By the time I got my camera, I was only able to get a couple of pictures good enough to put up here. You will note in one of them that two of these royal birds are checking out the territory of a "reindeer" in a neighbor's yard.

I am still fascinated by the peacocks in our area even though it has been a few months since I offered up pictures. Rarely have I seen 4 adult males together with not a peahen in sight. And it is even more unusual to see them on our block. They don't often roam this far from their usual gathering places a few blocks away.


Friday, December 26, 2008

Still Thinking of You Bro’

Today is the 13th anniversary of the death of my oldest brother Jerry; he went too soon at the age of 70. I was thinking about him today and went to the web site of the Washington, D.C. law firm which still has his name first in the list of named partners. On their site, I found his biography which I am printing below in full. I'm sure his colleagues won't mind.

Jerry S. Cohen

Jerry S. Cohen was born on September 13, 1925 in Wayne County, Michigan. He died in December 1995. Jerry Cohen was one of the founding partners of the firm. In his seventy years, Mr. Cohen held a variety of jobs, filled a variety of roles and always had a story to tell.

Mr. Cohen served in the Marines and got both his B.A. and J.D. from Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan. He began his career working for his father in Detroit and was fond of recounting his conversation with his dad explaining how he had managed to lose an uncontested divorce case.

Mr. Cohen went to work for the Michigan Attorney General as the assistant in charge of the Criminal Division. In 1961, he left Michigan for Washington, D.C. He worked at the Senate Antitrust & Monopoly Subcommittee and served as its chief counsel and staff director until 1969. Mr. Cohen always spoke with great admiration of Senator Phil Hart with whom he worked closely during those years. His interest in the small competitor and consumer grew during those years, which saw his work on the Petroleum Marketing Practices Act and the Truth in Labeling Act.

Mr. Cohen opened the D.C. branch of the Philadelphia law firm of Dilworth, Kalish, Cohn & Coleman. He was soon thereafter joined by Herbert E. Milstein and Michael D. Hausfeld. The firm's practice was originally concentrated in antitrust and securities class actions for plaintiffs and that plaintiff-side orientation has remained at the core of the firm's practice. Under Mr. Cohen's leadership, the Washington, D.C. office became an independent partnership in 1986.

Over the years, Mr. Cohen became involved in a variety of prominent cases. He brought the first successful sexual harassment case under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He was one of a team of lawyers litigating In re Corrugated Container Antitrust Litigation to a successful jury verdict in Texas. Mr. Cohen was also active in two massive environmental cases – the Union Carbide Bhopal, India gas leak in 1984 and the Exxon Valdez oil spill case in 1989. Mr. Cohen was chosen as one of two attorneys leading the combined cases to trial against Exxon on behalf of more than 34,000 plaintiffs including Alaskan fishermen, seafood processors, environmental groups, and coastal villages. For his work on the case, he shared the 1995 Trial Lawyer of the Year award presented by the Trial Lawyers for Public Justice.

Mr. Cohen was the co-author of two New York Times best-selling books, both written with Morton Mintz, a Washington Post journalist. America Inc: Who Owns and Operates the United States came out in 1971 and Power Inc: Public and Private Rulers and How to Make Them Accountable came out in 1976.

Mr. Cohen was well respected by both plaintiff and defense lawyers. Whether or not you agreed with him, you knew that, if he said he would do something, he would keep his word. He had a fondness for good arguments and not-so-great cigars.

Jerry was quite a guy. I still miss you bro'.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Colors 2008 – Banners 14

My first banner post was December 24, 2007 with colors of the holiday season. Today I offer the 2008 version and I have tried to avoid repeating those that appeared last year.

Here are 5 new banners/flags that were seen along the way on my morning walks.

Enjoy the flying colors of Christmas, southern California style!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Happy Hanukkah!

At sundown this evening the 8 day festival of Hanukkah begins.

Donna has decorated the house for the holiday. Both outside:

And inside (including many of the Hanukkiah she has collected over the years):

In the course of my lifetime, the celebration of Hanukkah has changed drastically. It was not a gift giving holiday. But that has changed; as Christmas became more commercialized, so did Hanukkah as the Jewish version of gift giving. The nightly candle-lighting tradition remains as does playing dreidel games and the food, especially potato latkes (pancakes) of which I still partake unofficially and in moderation. (Please don't tell my cardiologist!)

So to all who stop by this week, Happy Hanukkah!!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Xmas Palm Trees

I grew up in the upper Midwest and spent most of the first 44 years of my life in places where winter meant snow and sub-freezing temperatures. Even though I have lived in southern California for nearly 27 years, I still chuckle when I see palm trees decorated for the season.


Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Mother Was (Almost) Always Right

One month from today will be the 25th anniversary of my mother's death. She was 79 years old at the time. I mention this because the weather in southern California today leads me to offer a memory about Mom now rather than on January 17.

I moved to the L.A. area from Springfield, Illinois to start a new job in January, 1982. At that time, my mother was living here. The weather was delightful! I moved from snow and slush and cold to sunny days and warm weather. That seemed like heaven. Then as Spring arrived, the sun was harder to find. It seemed like it appeared only briefly during April, May and June (contrary to Chamber of Commerce claims). I learned new terms from local TV weathermen; they referred to fog as the "marine layer" and the daily lack of sunlight as "June gloom."

One day as I was complaining about the continually overcast weather, my always optimistic mother proclaimed to me, "The sun shines every day in southern California. Some days you just have to wait a little longer for it to appear." For the most part Mom was right. There were only a few exceptions; today was one of them. We are having our 2nd rain storm in a week. (I'm not looking for sympathy from my freezing, snowbound friends in other parts of the country.) Today, I did not see any sunshine.

Alas, my mother's assertion was wrong today. But that's all right. Just thinking about her and that statement brings a smile to my face nearly 25 years after her death. Once again I think of how "wise" I was in the "selection of my parents." :-D

I still miss you Mom!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

They Came to See His Barroom Close

This afternoon we went to the closing performance of The Face on the Barroom Floor at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. As I mentioned last week, younger son Seth made his debut as a Director with this production. As a parent, I saw something very special at today's performance. About 10 (+/-) of Seth's friends showed up to see the last show of his first run. All were high school classmates and all but one had been "drama geeks" with Seth. If we counted right, 3 of them have been friends of his since grade school. Seth was looking good after the show surrounded by all these friends.

I don't know how many young adults continue to be close with their old classmates and school friends. Once I was out of high school, I only had 2 friends with whom I have remained close over the decades. But Seth is part of a group of friends that all seem like family to us. We see them all during the year. We have watched them grow up. And as I watched them today supporting their friend's success, I was a very happy and proud father.

Well, the Barroom has closed. Congratulations to cast and crew for a fine run. And thanks to all of you who were there supporting your friend!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Some Things Just Never Change

It is nearly 27 years since I left Illinois and moved to southern California. I had worked for 9 years at Sangamon State University (now the University of Illinois at Springfield). I was originally hired as Director of the Illinois Legislative Staff Internship Program which I headed for about 7 years. I also was the founding Director of the Illinois Legislative Studies Center at SSU.

So, it is understandable that I have been watching, with great interest, as the latest political scandal in Illinois is revealed; the alleged "selling" of Barack Obama's Senate seat by Governor Rod Blagojevich. All that I have been reading this week seems familiar. Many journalists have made reference to the way politics have been in Illinois for a very long time. From the years I was there, I even remember one popular, likable state official who was indicted for getting benefits from state contracts he awarded each year. It seemed to me as the case unwound through the legal system that he never understood what he had done wrong; he was just conducting business-as-usual in the state capitol.

The more I have read this week, the more I realized how much has stayed the same since I left Springfield. I guess that some things just never change!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

It Was a Very Good Run

It's already 3 days since The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol closed. It was a good run with sizable audiences after the opening night. Once again, it was a pleasure to perform on the stage of the Warner Grand Theatre; it's a marvelous old house in which to work.

The Ancient One has just about recovered from the 5 performances in 4 days. Even though Jacob Marley's chains were made of plastic, they still added about 10 extra pounds to drag around the stage (and up and down the stairs to the dressing room). Yes, it was a "ponderous chain" that left me mighty tired for 2 days following the closing. There is one more small picture of Marley to share; it was taken by fellow cast member Alicia Wells.

When this project started, The Ancient One was concerned that there would only be 4 weeks of rehearsals (that was really 3½ when you count the time off for Thanksgiving. Was that enough time to prepare well. The cast was made up of actors of varying experience. As it turned out, there was nothing to worry about. Anchored by Rusty Vance, an amazing actor, as Ebenezer Scrooge, we emerged on stage as a very tight ensemble. Throughout the whole process I don't recall a single instance of the "drama" that often envelops cast and crew as they work toward opening night.

Thanks to Ray Buffer for both his direction of The Christmas Carol and his dedicated leadership of The Relevant Stage. Now it's on to year 2 for this fledgling theatre company and the bigger and better results that come with experience. Bravo!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Barroom Unlike Any Other

This past Sunday, I attended the matinee performance of Tim Kelly's The Face on the Barroom Floor at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School. It just so happened that this was the first directing effort of younger son Seth, the new drama teacher at the school.

If you like puns and really corny jokes, you will love this play. As the director noted in his program comments, it has the kind of humor he complained about incessantly growing up and listening to on a daily basis as it spewed from the lips of The Ancient One. I guess I would describe the play as a western farce and the jokes and laughing begin right at the start and continue through the most wonderfully rollicking final 10 minutes I have ever seen on stage.

The entire cast of 14 students was extremely talented and I hesitate to single out any one of them. That means, of course, that I am about to do just that. Zachary Barryte was absolutely delightful as the arch villain Roderick Rodent. Not for one moment did he stray from his character and his comic timing was perfect. I could probably say the same thing about the rest of the cast too but I have known Zach since he was about 5 years old and his family does live across the street from us. So, I offer my kudos to Zach and apologize to the rest of the cast for not mentioning their names while congratulating them all on great performances.

Barroom continues this week with 7 p.m. performances on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and a 2 p.m. closing on Sunday. Where? The PAC at Palos Verdes Peninsula High School, Hawthorne Boulevard @ Silver Spur Road in Rolling Hills Estates, CA. Tickets online at: PENHIGHDRAMA.COM and information by phone at 310.377.4888 x830. If you are within commuting distance, don't miss it! The director's dad wants you there!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Jacob Marley’s Self-Portrait

Last night was the final tech/dress rehearsal for The Relevant Stage's production of The Christmas Carol which opens tonight at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. (I know, I plug the shows a lot!)

Jacob Marley (aka The Ancient One) finally got his ghostly makeup applied, donned most of his costume (the chains won't be available until tonight) and snapped a self-portrait on a cell phone with the help of a mirror. Oh, these character roles are so much fun!

Okay, time for some lunch and a long nap (didn't get home from rehearsal until 1:30 a.m. this morning). Then on to the Warner Grand for another opening.

Ticket information (another shameless plug) can be found at Marley hopes that he gets a chance to scare a few of you this weekend. Show times are 8:00 p.m. tonight, tomorrow and Saturday and at 7:00 p.m. Sunday. If you do get there, he will greet you in the lobby following curtain call.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

A Classic Example of a Brain Fart

It happened during the dress rehearsal of The Christmas Carol last night at the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro. The Ancient One in a partial costume for The Ghost of Jacob Marley (chains and make-up will be added tonight) began his scene with Scrooge. His face appeared in the door as the ghostly voice intoned, "Ebenezer. . . Ebenezer." The scene then continued as Marley appeared on stage to warn Scrooge of the coming of 3 haunting spirits.

In the midst of his monologue explaining the chains that weighed him down, Marley turns away from Scrooge saying, "I cannot rest, I cannot stay, I cannot linger anywhere! . . . . . . . ." And then silence for what seemed like an eternity. The Ancient One's mind went totally blank. He knew where he was; he knew there was more to the line. But there was not a thought in his head other than wondering what could possibly come next. What was the rest of the monologue he recites to himself many times each day. And it was one of those times where there was nothing the other actor on stage could do to help him escape from his dilemma. It was a classic "brain fart;" a total disconnect from what was going on; a total blanking out of the mind that appears randomly, without any warning and is an actor's nightmare.

The Director, Ray Buffer, finally saved The Ancient One by interrupting to make a minor change in the blocking of the scene. When the scene resumed, the monologue was delivered flawlessly. All the lines were there and the rehearsal continued.

Tonight is the final rehearsal for The Christmas Carol, the final production in The Relevant Stage's inaugural season at the Warner Grand. Then it's on to the 4 performances (tomorrow thru Sunday). If any readers stop by for the show, be sure to wait around to say hello to The Ancient One and the rest of the cast when they emerge from the dressing rooms into the lobby after the performance.