Wednesday, January 31, 2018

In Which I Give The Dunces Their Due.

Airlines: offering you the comforts of gas station food/drinks at popular night club prices.

United Airlines: not even offering you that, because all they do is delay and cancel flights. I’ve bitched about it a dozen times on this blog, but today I have to give them credit.

Yesterday, United wouldn’t allow a woman to bring her emotional-support peacock on a flight. A no-brainer sure, but they didn’t manage to bungle this one. (Of course, on the same day, they bought the naming rights to the LA Coliseum. After 95 years of tradition, it will now be called the United Airlines Memorial Coliseum. Sacrilege.)

Back to my point – I love pets as much as anyone. I’m infatuated with my dog. But he belongs in the kennel when I travel. The emotional-support animal grift must come to an end.

As for the woman who attempted to bring the peacock onboard, let’s presume it’s a lock she doesn’t have a special guy in her life, but how about family or friends? Didn’t anyone mention to her it was a bad idea? Get it together, people.

By the way, whether you love animals or not, check out this video posted online yesterday. It’s the best:

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

The Microphone Is Open.

I went to an open mic night at a place I’d never been before: Industry Café & Jazz. There was a cool house band, spoken word artists, rappers, and a comedian who bombed so badly he could have arrested for terrorism.

But at least he was out there, trying new things. And so were we. There was plenty of good beer and East African food. (Very new to me. A lot of maize, and gigantic portions.)

If you’re in the neighborhood – and it’s a very cool neighborhood, the Arts District in Culver City – stop in.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Culinary Corner.

I’ve eaten enough Chinese food in my life that my fortune cookies have started to contradict each another.

I do love the Chinese food, but unfortunately, Chinese restaurants are disappearing, replaced by “Asian fusion”. The best authentic Chinese place by my mom in New York is a restaurant in the lobby of a Marriott.

So I decided to pick up the gauntlet, and in my third attempt at cooking, I made wonton soup.

Because I still refuse to do things the easy way, I made the wrappers from scratch. (Admittedly, it was a bit of a bitch.) Handy tip: to help keep them symmetrical (mine were nine square millimeters) I used a ruler to both measure and cut the dough.

The finished product. I filled them with chopped pork and shrimp and they were yummy. I highly recommend the effort. Bon 食欲.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Thanks So Much.

I tell people that the secret ingredient in my baking is “love”, but it’s actually “floor”.

I’m still learning. And building an arsenal of utensils as I go. Helping very much: my friend Jenn sent me three items I’m going to need – a zester, an apple corer, and a doughnut cutter.

Thanks so much, Jenn! You are entirely generous and I’ll be whipping up a batch of zesty apple doughnuts in your honor.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018


Soccer is so numbing, you could pierce my ears during a match and I’d never know.

And yet I enjoy my nephew’s soccer games. Maybe because I spend the whole time on the sideline telling his teammates that I bet on the other team, or asking them where they’re going to buy me a burger if they win. And when they win, I put my hands up in the air and shout “I win! I win!” They’re not keen on that one.

Lately, his team has been winning like crazy. They won the city title, and were now gunning for the South Bay championship. On Saturday, my nephew, the team’s goalie (that’s him in yellow), made a huge stop on a shootout to win the semi-finals. Then on Sunday, they beat El Segundo to win it all.

Win it all locally, that it is. Next month they start the state playoffs in Riverside. (Parents lament to me that it never ends. Handy tip: just tell your kid he didn’t make the team.)

I’ll be there to support him. I have to. During timeouts, that butt’s not gonna stand on itself.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

My Favorite Movies Of 2017.

Thom Mount, the former president of Universal Studios, said, “Somebody used to say to me when I’d say I work in Hollywood, and these people who are disparaging of Hollywood—and there are many of those—well, ‘It’s not brain surgery.’ I would say, ‘Yes, you’re right, it’s not brain surgery. It’s heart surgery.’” It’s much more fundamental to the human condition than brain surgery.

This morning, the nominees for this year’s Oscars were announced. There can be anywhere from five to ten nominations for best picture, but I thought seven films really stood out. Here they are, in order:

The Big Sick. A perfect movie. Easily one of the most realistic portrayals of romance. The screenplay should be taught in every screenwriting class – every character faces obstacles and learns something. My favorite movie of the year.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. I voted for this film for best cast for the SAG Awards, and it won. Every actor shows incredible range, and the film is able to be tragic and funny and you wish it went on even longer.

Logan Lucky. A heist movie that is so much fun. The hilariousness is in the details, like when the one-handed character Clyde is sentenced in court, and two bailiffs give each other a perplexed look when they want to cuff him.

Baby Driver. Entirely stylized. Entirely original. It’s like a folk tale, told in modern times, with a kickass soundtrack. You just have a great time watching it.

Dunkirk. A beautiful, epic war movie told from three points of view: air, land and sea. Writer/director Christopher Nolan asked for an unheard of $20 million and 20% of the gross up front, and no one can argue that he didn’t earn it.

Molly’s Game. No one is better at dialogue than my favorite screenwriter ever, Aaron Sorkin. And this was his first time directing. Jessica Chastain’s scenes opposite Idris Elba (who’s never been better) are electric.

All the Money in the World. Interesting that four of my seven favorite movies are based on true stories. But when the real events are incredibly gripping, they almost have to be retold on film. This is an instant classic.

Monday, January 22, 2018

Culinary Corner.

Chicken pot pie sounds like a delicious three-course meal. If you add commas.

It’s one of my favorites, and since I was feeling cocky after using my oven all of one time, I decided to make a chicken pot pie. And I chose to make the crust from scratch.

Anyone can just buy a crust, but where’s the satisfaction? (Ask me in a few weeks, because my friend Jenn, who has outstanding baking skills, assures me there’s no shame in purchasing certain ingredients, and I’ll soon prefer it.) For now, I compare my foray into baking to last season’s Yankees – a bunch of rookies who weren’t supposed to win much, but because of their inexperience, didn’t know it, and they won like crazy.

Here’s how it looked after I added the top crust.

And here’s the finished product. I let it bake past the required 30 minutes, because I like my crust well-done. I also added potatoes to the filling, because for me that’s a classic pot-pie necessity.

It turned out entirely delicious, and unlike the very popular Costco chicken pot, mine doesn’t contain any hydrogenated oils. Stick to Adidas track suits, Costco. Stay in your lane.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Thanks, Sir.

It’s fair to say actors and writers aren’t very smart. If we were, we wouldn’t be actors and writers, would we?

Writing is especially a bitch, so I’m very lucky that my friend Ben has been reading the scripts for my sitcom and giving me notes. He has a phenomenal sense of comedy and can really streamline dialogue, and he’s been a huge help.

Thanks so much, Ben. You’ve made me a third less less-smart.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Botch The Vote.

We’d probably have a lot less crime if superheroes would stop making movies all the time.

Good news: with the exception of Logan, all of the SAG Award nominees are of the non-superhero persuasion. And with the deadline looming on Friday, I cast my votes yesterday.

The SAG Awards are unique in that they only honor actors, which should make for an easy voting process, except the categories are loaded with so many good performances. It’s a lot of responsibility, and I’m just a dude who attended a state school.

Case in point: outstanding performance by an entire cast. Those are five kickass movies. I went with Three Billboards because it’s such an emotional, yet funny, yet tragic film, and the actors showed every color.

The ceremony airs Sunday night. See if my vote counts. And even better, imagine my level of voter’s remorse hitting its peak.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Culinary Corner.

A few years ago, when my apartment was remodeled, a brand-new oven was installed in my kitchen. But I never used it once. Cooking wasn’t really for me. Whenever I had a woman over, I just poured us each a bowl of cereal really romantically.

But that changed recently. I started thinking about learning to cook. Or at least bake. So I bought cooking-ware and ingredients, took the battery out of my smoke detector and dove in. Yesterday was my first project: buttery, soft pretzels.

The result. My twisting skills improved as I went along.  They’re so buttery good. I brushed a little unsweetened, evaporated milk onto them as I took them out of the oven to give them some shine. I ate half the pretzels last night.

Now I choose the next recipe, and try to increase my skills. In the meantime, I’m really happy with first at-bat.

Some people call it baking. I call it “making love”.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Good Friends. Fat Bellies.

Remember in 90s movies when the hot girl would enter a party in slow motion? That’s what happens when I walk into a buffet.

And that I did yesterday. My good friend Rob was in town with his daughter, and we spent the morning walking Ricky down the strand, and then had lunch at a place I’ve passed five million times but never had a meal: Big Wok, Mongolian barbecue.

It’s essentially a buffet of Korean barbecue-type meats, with noodles and vegetables and sauce. You load up a bowl, then get in line around the big woks – and some very hard-working nice gentlemen put up with intense temps to heat up your meal. Then you eat your enormous meal, and get in back in line for seconds. Then you’re so full you go blind.

It was nice to see Rob, and his daughter Pheobe, a very sweet, smart, curious ten-year-old who at one point said something so observant to Rob and me: “You guys speak a language I don’t understand.”

It was the shared experience of guys who’ve know each other for decades. The shorthand, the quotes from our favorite movies, the same sense of humor that is the foundation of every friendship. Yesterday was a damn good day.

I made Rob and Phoebe promise to come out here again soon. I’ll probably regain my appetite by then. Probably. And then it’s on, Big Wok.

Friday, January 12, 2018

New York Leftovers.

Distinguishing the Jews from the gentiles in New York – not a tremendous challenge.  

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Make It Raaain!

What’s at the end of the rainbow? HVAC sales and installation, apparently.

Actually, since January 1st in California, there’s just “pot” at the end of the rainbow.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

I Will Faithfully Execute The Watching Of Kickass Flicks.

I have a habit of giving bad movies five-star ratings on Amazon, because if I have to waste 90-plus minutes on crap, I want you to suffer, too.

But when it comes to voting for movies, I take that responsibility seriously. I love this time of year, when the DVDs (and downloads) show up for me to watch them and vote for the SAG Awards.

Last night I watched The Big Sick, and it was easily one of my favorites of the year. One of the most realistic portrayals of romance – sad, funny, inspiring. You really will like it.

Back to “work”.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Still Scared Of Him.

From my blog, 6/20/13:
A few years ago, I arrived at an audition for a sitcom and it was utter chaos. The German writer/director looked like a genuine axe murder, and acted like one too, hustling actors in and out of his set, forcing them to read for roles they didn’t have prepared. And his “sitcom” script had all the charm of a German axe murder. Before my turn came up, I left. It was the only audition I’ve ever walked out on.

It turned out the German was Tommy Wiseau, the infamous writer/director/star of the best/worst film ever made: The Room. (Killer review here.) This movie is so bad it’s shown like the The Rocky Horror Picture Show to packed, mocking audiences in Los Angeles at midnight screenings. I highly recommend attending one – it’s a real rite of passage in LA. 
Now, Tommy is the (albeit ironic) toast of the town, thanks to the new movie The Disaster Artist, which chronicles the making of his horrible film. And there he was, Sunday night, on-stage with James Franco, after James won the Golden Globe for best actor in a comedy. As he tried to grab the mic, James was having nothing of it.

It’s funny to see Tommy is still whacked out of his mind. But, he was king for a night. And that’s fun, and cool, and quite a rush. Good for him.

By the way: I didn’t walk out of his audition because I was scared. I left because it was the worst script I ever read, was obviously never going to be made, and I don’t let anyone abuse me. That said, I hope he enjoyed his night. Good for him. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

31 Seconds Of December.

December is that time of year when you have zero excuses for being so sweaty.

And yet, I pulled it off, even in frigid New York. Check out the rest of my month, one second per day:

Friday, January 5, 2018

He’s All Growed Up.

You’ll always cherish the moment your nephew saw his first bra – dangling from a tree by a chairlift.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Oh, Just Chilling.

Dinosaurs didn’t exactly go extinct – it was more of a murder/suicide. Or at least that’s how I understand it.

Blame my New York public school education – or maybe it’s the altitude – but I’ve been in ignorant bliss all week. One last day today before back to work.

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Frozen Smiles.

A picture of the Shevin boys, just in case something happens and they need to identify the bodies.

It was a great first day, with good snow and a lot of runs. And don’t worry – for those of you who are back to work or school, we’ll be sure to have twice as much fun to balance it all out.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Through The Valley Of The Shadow Of Death.

Good thing we all have cell phones now. Nothing’s worse than having to look out the window at Earth’s sacred majesty.

Death Valley, on the way to Mammoth. A tad spectacular.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Cold Resolve.

I never make new resolutions. I just carry the ones over from the previous year and add “this time I’m serious”.

Okay, one new one. This year I’ve decided to get out of town at least once every month. Change my perspective. Broaden my horizons. January’s trip begins today, as I’m going up to Mammoth to go skiing for a few days.

By the way, for those of you who make resolutions, feel free to bring all your unwanted bread, junk food, chocolate and alcohol to my place. Thanks.