Monday, September 29, 2008

Good Bye Blue Eyes

Paul Newman, one of the greatest film legends of the 20th century, passed away this last Friday (September 26th, 2008) due to cancer. He was 83. While Paul Newman will always be remembered by the enormous footprint he left on the film industry, what always was remarkable to me was not his ability as an actor, but the greatness of his character. 

Paul Newman was best known as the likable rebel in films like Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Slapshot, Hud, and The Verdict. His trademarks being his cool blue eyes, his steely nerve, and magnetic charisma onscreen. His acting abilities were oft challenged due to his good looks, but these doubts were silenced when he won the Oscar for "Best Actor" for his performance in The Color of Money, along with five solid nominations for the same category. But his likeliness to a typical Hollywood actor ended there. 

Paul Newman was a philanthropist. A common Holiday tradition of making salad dressing for his friends and family turned into a charitable enterprise. He formed "Newman's Own". A food company that sold salsa's, salad dressing, lemonade, pasta sauce, and wine, giving all of the profits to charity. The recorded donations as of 2006 were recorded at $200 million. He began a summer camp dedicated to kids with cancer, it was called "Hole in the Wall Gang", named after a gang of the same name in his film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The camp even included cowboy hats so that the children with chemotherapy could hide their bald heads. He donated $10 million to his alma matter Kenyon College to help fund a scholarship. He was also one of the founders of the CECP (Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy). A group made up of CEOs and other corporate chairpersons dedicated to encourage the philanthropic donation of monies by large companies. After his son Scott passed away due to drug overdose he started the "Scott Newman Center", aimed at preventing drug and alcohol addiction. 

As a husband he stood loyally by his wife for over 40 years. As a man in the tumultuous world of Hollywood this stands a testament to his character. When asked about fidelity inside a marriage by Playboy, Paul Newman once quipped, "Why go out for a hamburger when you have steak at home?" 

Paul Newman was also a motor enthusiast. Competing and winning many auto-races. 

At the age of 83 Paul Newman has lived harder, and accomplished more than many men or women. There are many men of talent and skill that have blessed the film community, but it is very rare to have a man with the honorable character that Paul Newman possessed bless the entertainment industry, or any industry for that matter. May his example produce more like him. 

“The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet 
with the least fuss you can muster.
 I’m not running for sainthood. 
I just happen to think that in life 
we need to be a little like the farmer, 
who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Beauty is only pixel deep

I recently found this video online on a random blog. It reminded me of an interesting article I read in the New Yorker a few months ago. The article covered Pascal Dangin, the founder of the photography touch-up company Box Studios based in New York City. As a photoshop user myself I knew what a powerful tool photoshop was, and I was perfectly aware of it's use in most fashion, health, and entertainment magazines. What I didn't know was to what extent. 

I had always thought that retouching photographs was limited to airbrushing bad skin or add make-up post shoot. Little did I know that it spans much further. Artists can slim the calves on women, and bulge the biceps of men. They can add clothes onto a scantily clad model for the Middle Eastern market, and add wisps of hair blowing in the wind. They can add flesh, add lights, and add tone. The other scary fact is how many magazines and add agencies use these technologies. Dangin views himself as an artist. The digital pixelscape his canvas, and the cursor his brush. There is no doubt it takes great skill to transmute beauty in the ways he does, but what I'm more concerned about is what affect these manipulations are having on our society. 

Without dispute I can say that we emulate ourselves based in what we see in the media. Much like the way we have our first "Ah-ha!" moment of our own identity when we recognize our own image in the mirror, we look to others for our place in the world. This ranges from socially acceptable behavior to our own aesthetic appearance. Certainly there are plenty of those who go against grain, but in our formative years (teenage and younger) acceptance is crucially important to our identity. How healthy is it for people to compare themselves to a digitally remodeled persona? I don't think the problem is that digital remodeling exists, but in how it's "presented". 

In the article there is no doubt Pascal sees his work as art. He's a staunch advocate of having creativity driving technology, and not the other way around. Like a modern DaVinci he points out how important understanding the physiology of human body is when retouching. While he may add plumpness to a breast or slim a buttocks, he's always careful not to deform the muscular and bone structure so as the models no longer look human. There is no doubt his work art. For what is art but to point out beauty in this world? To portray your subjective experience through a medium (of course the argument as to what is art goes much deeper, but is not the main purpose of this stream). The problem is his art is often not credited as art, or credited at all. As the article points out his work is never credited in magazines, and the public is mostly in the dark as to the digital transformation their role models undertake. 

It's important to remember that whether photographs are retouched or not, beauty comes from the inside. How many times have you stared into the face of a love one and blemishes that you noticed when you first met disappear. And likewise, how ugly does a person become when you discover their true colors through some immoral behavior? Beauty is not just an aesthetic value, but one of intelligence and morality. Beauty is found in confidence, strength of character, intelligent ideas, and the purity of soul. I think it's important we teach our children and others these lessons. 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

"It ain't over til it's over."

Tonight the Yankees played what will most likely be the last game ever to be played in the old Yankee stadium, "The House That Ruth Built", the Cathedral of baseball. Home to 6,581 Yankees home games, 161 play-off games (more than any 3 stadiums combined), 85 years of tradition, 37 American League Pennant titles, 26 World Series Championships, 20 classic boxing match-ups, 3 Papal visits, and one legendary baseball team.  

While Yankee stadium will always be known as the home of the Bronx Bombers, it also hosted many many historic boxing matches. Including an aging Jack Dempsey's come from behind win over Jack Sharkey, the historical knock out of the German Schmeling by Joe Louis, and Muhammad Ali defending his title against Kevin Norton. Yankee stadium also hosted a myriad of football games. The Notre Dame-Army game, where coach Knute Rockne was said to give his "win one for the gipper speech at half-time" at half time. The NFL championship game between the Colts and the Giants in 1958, a nail-biter that is hailed as the single game that elevated American Football into the national spotlight. 

Aside from sports the stadium served as a meeting place for Mass during Papal visits, a concert venue for U2, Pink Floyd and Billy Joel, and a memorial service for those who suffered during 9/11. The stadium also held a wedding, between blind Yankee sportswriter Ed Lucas and his fiancee Alison Pfieffle. 

But of course when people think of Yankee stadium they will always think of the Yankees. They will think of pinstripes, and they will think of the prestige. Those who have attended games will recall the Hammond Organ playing "Take Me Out To The Ball Game" during the seventh inning stretch, the deafening clamor of the New York fans, and the white frieze running atop the stadium. Players who were lucky enough to play there will always remember that moment that they got to share the same space that baseball legends such as Ruth and DiMaggio once occupied. 

I feel our society does not hold onto tradition as much as we should. We're too quick to tear down our history, and being such a young country we have so little to begin with. The Yankee stadium is history. It's our coliseum, it's our pyramid. It's one of the most storied buildings in New York city, and without a doubt the greatest stadium in baseball history. 

In the words of Bob Sheppard, voice of the Yankees, during the seventh inning stretch of the last game:
Farewell old Yankee Stadium, farewell
What a wonderful story you can tell
DiMaggio, Mantle, Gehrig and Ruth
A baseball cathedral in truth

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Band on the Horizon: Alberta Cross

Jump on now, cause this London based New York polished Americana rock band isn't going to stay quiet much longer. They are already touring with Oasis currently, and I'm sure they will be hitting it much bigger once another album gets cut. 

They are a wonderful mix of soulful vocals and bluesy guitar riffs all set on top of a solid rock foundation. Their first (mini) album The Thief and the Heartbreaker is a wonderful mix, showing their strong original sound based upon old-rock goodness. It all sounds familiar, but wonderfully new, leaving you wanting more. A few of my favorite cuts include, "Low Man", "Old Man Chicago",  "The Devil's All You Ever Had", and "Hard Breaks". 

Pick up the mini-album on iTunes if you like solid rock with a bluesy edge and heart-felt vocals. And keep these guys on the radar, I have a feeling they are just beginning.

iReview the iPhone

So I bit the bullet. With my Verizon contract approaching an end I decided to cut my ties with them and head to AT&T for the iPhone. It was a long time coming. Ever since I was a wee one I was a Mac user. I remember way back in the day when it was System 7, and the big technological jump was going from 16 colors to 256 colors (wow, I feel very dated). I'm getting very scared for when I get older and have kids, "Back in my day we didn't have neural implants, had to type with our hands..."

 But before jumping into the good of the phone (cause there is plenty), let me first give the bad news: as a phone it's fairly weak. While I could easily dial up people with a few quick button presses on my old phone, I now find myself constantly waiting for for my iPhone to catch up so that I can dial out. Plus my entirety of my contacts are now in my phone, and sorting through to find names can sometimes take more effort than you wanted to spend. 

The goods news: as a gadget it is very cool. 

I was a subscriber to .Mac before, it allowed me to store my contacts online, gave me an e-mail address, as well as a small amount of online storage all for a yearly fee. The site changed, and it's now called 'MobileME'. This service links my iPhone to my computer. THerefore if I change a contact on my phone on my computer it syncs up with my phone, and if I erase e-mail from my phone it erases on my computer, and visa versa. It also has my calender, world clocks, an alarm clock, notepad, maps (with SIGalert traffic), calculator, and weather, plus more. On top of all that, you can also download new applications to customize the iPhone more to your personality/usage. Some programs inclue:

Taxi: locates your location through GPS, then gives you numbers  to local taxi companies (plus show the cross streets of your area)

urbanspoon: the program picks a random restaurant and shows the food type, area, and cost. If you don't like it just shake (yes, shake) the phone again and another random restaurant is picked. Links to the internet to show you reviews and sometimes menus. 

Trulia: links you with the Trulia website. Finds your position on the map and shows you open houses within your area. 

Yelp: links with the Yelp! website. Uses your location to find local restaurants, bars, coffee houses etc... Then links you directly to the user reviews. 

Moves: Search out films by either location, film, or theatre. 

Mobile News: Shows you news articles from around the world through AP. 

Remote: Maybe my favorite. This allows you to control your iTunes from your iPhone. That means I can be in my kitchen playing my music from my room and change it via my iPhone. Too cool. 

Of course the other bad news is that with so many cool features you can easily kill your battery if you play around with your toy too much. But all in all I'm loving my new toy, and it's blowing my mind how much smaller the world just got. 

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Seven years ago today America suffered one of its greatest modern-day tragedies. 19 evil-hearted men caused the death of over 2,974 innocents. It also marked the day all Americans held a single collective breath, stunned by the sudden realization that we too are vulnerable to the rest of the world. 

Today we mourn the losses suffered, but let us also use this day to inspire hope. Hope for a new world of understanding and brotherhood. Hope that the world will learn that evil prescribes to no single religion and bears skin of many colors. Let us pray for peace and tolerance in war torn areas. Let us pray that those with power and influence use their vantage point for philanthropic and not selfish purposes. Today tell those you love how special they are to you. For if 9/11 taught us anything it's that life is full of unexpected surprises, and those that we love can be taken away in an instant. 

Below is a small video I made my Sophmore year at College. It's a short montage made with footage I took from the memorial service held at Trinity, as well as footage I captured by Canal St. in New York soon after 9/11. It was the first time I played around with iMovie and a camera by myself. The events of 9/11 stirred up so many emotions for me I needed to do something to express myself, and film seemed the medium I was most comfortable with. It's rough, as one can expect from the fledgling work of a young artist. But whenever I watch it it transports me back to that time collecting the footage in NYC. I was there donating work boots and work gloves with my girlfriend at the time, and I can remember the shocking stillness of the scene. Certainly it was chaotic and busy, but there was an auspicious air about. But regardless where you went there was not a single wish of revenge, or invective of hatred towards the killers. Instead there was unity, people joining together, helping each other. I believe in times of great pain and sorrow we witness the best in human nature, and they all stem from a place of love, acceptance, and forgiveness. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Google Search: True Love

I know I've been on hiatus with my 'Meditations on Love' entries, but there are still a few more chapters I'd like to squeeze out. So onward...

With the recent bombardment of technology we've encountered in the past decade our entire world has changed. The way we interact with people, and the way we feel for people has also been affected. In this entry, I want to take a look at how these changes have affected the way we go about relationships, and how we love. 

How can I miss you if you never leave me? 

I once wrote that to a lover a long time ago during a stint at a Colorado Outward Bound course. I was out in the middle the woods in a national park, and I had only a picture of us to remind myself of her. But what I meant by it was that she was still everywhere, my memories or her voice, her smell, and her glowing smile. Of course at the time that statement seemed very endearing, but with today's technology that statement is quite literal. If you are on a trip, or far away from your loved ones you have many ways of keeping up with them today. There is Skype, AIM, Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, Text Messaging, E-mail, Webcams, Blogs, etc... Missing physical contact with each-other? They even have a vibrator that can be controlled from a remote location by your lover over the internet. Or suppose your love fades, and the relationship ends. Whereas a few years ago you would never hear from your ex, today their information is still easily accessible. Whether you see their relationship status change on Facebook, pictures of their new significant other on MySpace, the urge to communicate when seeing them on AIM, or reading their Blog; you ex is always within the reach of a few keystrokes.

Compare this model to how things used to be "back in the day". Let us look at love in a time before e-mail, before telephones, before telegrams even. To get in contact with your lover you would have to physically write a letter, and wait the months it would take to have the letter delivered by boat or horse, and have then wait for the response to be delivered back. Today it is as easy as sending a text message and waiting a few seconds (which of course you can check to see if they've read it or not). Compare a common "love text" today with a exceprt from a love letter written in 1838.

i luv U

What would I not do for love of you, my own Clara! The knights of old were better off; they could go through fire or slay dragons to win their ladies, but we of today have to content ourselves with more prosaic methods, such as smoking fewer cigars, and the like. After all, though, we can love, knights or no knights; and so, as ever, only the times change, not men's hearts...

They say distance makes the heart grow fonder. And with today's technology they say the world is getting smaller, does that mean our fondness and desire for others is waning as well? In order to tackle this question let us look at another way technology has changed our love lives, the way we meet people. 

With social networking sites like MySpace and dating websites like and eharmony meeting people would seem to be easier than ever. Sign up for a site, type in the attributes you are looking for a mate, and hit enter. Voila. Multiple different profiles show up, and you can browse through them to select who you would like to contact. All of the benefits of meeting people in a bar, but without shouting over loud music. But there is one factor, which I mentioned in my previous entry, that you cannot search for: chemistry. Don't be surprised if you meet that athletic, open minded female that listens to the same music and the result is one hour of awkward painful conversation. Even with the benefits of technology, finding a lover seems just as hard as ever when actually applied. 

An article in The Atlantic a few months ago looked at the effects that new technology (more specifically Google and the internet) had on affecting the way we think. The argument loosely says that our brains are not instinctively programed to read, that we must train it to read, and the way in which we read directly affects the way we think. We are in the process of adjusting to reading on the internet. We no longer sit and read a long novel, slowly examining plot, sentence structure, and vocabulary. We are now in the world of the internet. We have a near infinite amount of resources, and as a result we have now resorted to a scanning method of reading; jumping from webpage to webpage, traveling on a highway of hyperlinks, going wherever our curiosity takes us. While the article convincingly shows us how our minds have changed through this new technology, one thing that is not covered is what is the effect of these changes on our emotions? Surely thought and feeling are connected, and since our thought process is changing naturally so must feelings. 

Surely on could say computers can replicate our thought process; Google is nothing more than an artificial intelligence. When someone asks me what kind of car passed by my mind instantly researches my knowledge on car shapes and logos, finds the correlating images, and verbally expresses my "search results". But while computers maybe able to simulate our thought process can they mimic our abilities to emote and love? The reason I bring this up is because the more we use the computer and internet to acquire information the more our brains become like one. The playwright Richard Foreman worries we risk becoming "pancake people", a people spread too wide and too thin (or even worse becoming crepe people... bad joke). He mentions that mistakes are human, and it is often through mistakes that we learn and grow. With todays instant gratification it's no wonder that we see so many divorces. If something doesn't work perhaps you just searched wrong, therefore the answer is simple, click 'back' and try another result. My Grandfather once told me, "find a good woman and stay with her." An old fashioned way of thinking perhaps, but perhaps just a way of thinking that existed before our minds became the scatterbrained models that they are now. 

As I'm typing this I realize my mind itself is wandering, and there are no real conclusions I am coming to here. But I suppose this post is more of a survey of the way technology has affected the way we love. So with that I'll leave you all of these thoughts to ponder, and ask yourself how technology has affected you and your mind. 

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Coming to a heaven near you...

You may not know the name Don LaFontainea, but you've heard his voice; you've memorized his voice, and you've mimicked his voice. He's told you about far away lands, heroes in need, and evil villains. Don LaFontainea is perhaps the most famous voice in film, yet has never starred in a film. If you haven't guessed by now, Don LaFontainea is the famous grizzly voiced baritone of the trailer world. Known as the "King of Voiceovers", he has had over 40 years of voice over work experience, he is know to have recorded for over 5,000 movie trailers, recording up to 80 in a single day. Don passed away on September 1st, 2008. He is survived by his daughters Christine, Skye, and Elyse. 

Rest in peace Don LaFontainea, the film world will miss you. 

Friday, September 5, 2008

Vicky Cristina Barcelona

Yesterday I was dragged to the movies by a few friends of mine to see Woody Allen's new film Vicky Cristina Barcelona. I was certainly hesitant, I'm not the biggest Woody Allen fan. But this film completely flipped me. 

The film takes place in Barcelona, where two American friends are staying. Vicky (Rebecca Hall) is finishing up her schooling, while Cristina (Scarlett Johansson) is looking for purpose and adventure. In Spain they meet a sleepy-eyed and charming Spaniard Juan Antonio (Javier Bardem), who gets them both tangled into a romantic relation along with his fiery ex-wife (Penelope Cruz). The entire film is dryly narrated by an anonymous voice, creating the illusion of logic and sense in the complex world Allen creates. 

The film stands as a survey of love, and the chaos and inexplicability that stems from and within it. Allen masterfully has crafted each character, and the characters of Vicky and Cristina balance each other in their friendship beautifully. But the two that really stand out are the Spaniards, played by Javier Bardem and Penelope Cruz. I wouldn't be at all surprise if you see that two names mentioned come February next year, especially Cruz. I think many people overlook Penelope Cruz as a pretty face and don't see her extreme talent as an actress. Although after you see this film you will be utterly convinced, watching her shift seamlessly from passion and danger, English and Spanish, beauty and hysteria. In fact I'd be very disappointed and shocked if she wasn't at LEAST nominated for best supporting actress. 

This film stands out to me as one of the bigger sleepers of the year, so I highly recommend checking out this film before it disappears from the screens. You can thank me later. 

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


I know I've been slacking on the Blog front here recently, for two reasons mainly: a) I've been in a bit of a funk recently, and b) I've been resettling into the LA lifestyle, so a normal routine has not yet set in. Anyhow, I'm back, and I promise I will make September a more productive month.

I had the luck of checking out two amazing music festivals this year: All Points West in New Jersey, and Outside Lands in San Francisco. I'm still so jazzed up about all of the great music and experiences I had about both, I felt I needed to write an entry on it. Being that it was the first year for both festivals, and both had their own share of growing pains I could easily write about that. I could write about great performances from some of my favorite artists such as Kings of Leon, Wilco, Manu Chao, Toots and the Maytails, and CSS. I could write about my favorite new band of the year , the Felice Brothers, and their two amazing shows. Or I could write about the many new acts I discovered and will continue to pursue: such as Rodrigo y Gabriela, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings, and Bon Iver. 

But instead of any of these, I think I will write about one of my new favorite bands: Radiohead. Of course I had heard of them before, when I was much younger, but it was an acquired taste for me. I think 'Creep' was my first exposure, I then bought The Bends when I was in high school and fell in love with 'Street Spirit', 'Fake Plastic Trees', and 'High and Dry'. While I liked the tracks they seemed a bit too far from me. It seemed close enough to rock, yet sometimes the percussion seemed to be off just by a hair, or the electronic synth use seemed more like noise than music. There was enough to like them, but it seemed just out of reach for me to truly love it. I also ended losing (or stolen) my CD, and I never went out and bought a new Radiohead CD. I just didn't know much about their new work, and I didn't venture to try them out. 

Fast forward twelve years: I was excited to see Radiohead, but it wasn't the main reason I went to All Points West, that was easily Kings Of Leon, CSS, Amadou and Miriam, Rodrigo y Gabriela, and Felice Brothers just to name a few. I knew some Radiohead songs, but I was not a huge fan. That quickly changed when the lights went out and they began to play. The first song was '15 Step', off their newest album. It started like I expected, distorted off-beat percussion, dirty and experimental. Thom's murmured staccato voice popped in. I felt like I always did, a little distanced from the music, not sure how to listen to it. But soon a harmonious guitar rift pushed through, and linked the two into a full bodied harmony. This was aided by an amazing light spectacular on stage. Enormous icicle-like lights stretched from the floor to the ceiling, 
their effects ranging from rain-like particles, spire-like candles, and abstract shapes darting about the tall pillars of light. On the sides a LED screen was dissected in six, showing each band member. 

It's very hard to describe the show, but I think it was the closest thing to a spiritual experience I've had at a concert. The best way I can describe it is a soundscape. A mixture of sounds that no one would dare call musical, but they seem to blend them together perfectly into an incredible sound. That along with Thom Yorke's passionate performance onstage creates an incredible spectacle; an experience and sound that is ten times better than their studio albums. If you have never seen a Radiohead show I highly highly suggest you get them on their next tour, or fly to Japan and check out one of their last four performances, cause trust me, it's worth it. 

Before I close this up let me also give kudos for Radiohead for being innovators. Not just sonically, but their decision to forgo the record labels and release their album on their own 
website for any price. This is a visionary move, and the first in a long line of renovations that the music industry will see in the upcoming years. 

Lastly, here is a clip taken from the second night at the All Points West. This is a good example of how they use minor notes, and other off-putting sounds together, then break into harmony. In this clip they're playing 'Reckoner', a song off their newest album which they actually played at all three shows I went to, and is currently the song I'm having a love affair with.