the circular runner

Posts Tagged ‘Los Angeles’

play is the new work…if you’re an artist, at least

In career, life, observations, writers & books, writing on October 22, 2012 at 4:30 am

I recently attended Story World 2012. I’m happy to report that it was well attended, well organized, and the talks were, for the most part, thoughtful and thought provoking, which is a lot of thought when you get right down to it.

If I had to describe the main theme of the event, I’d say it was play. There was a lot of talk of play and the importance of allowing yourself as a storyteller to create experiences (we don’t just create stories anymore according to the panelists I heard) that allow us to be kids at heart, and that allow our readers (experiencers, I guess would be the right word) to be child-like as well.

Usually, I get a little annoyed when people start talking about permission to be a child, about the need to release our inner child—I hear these phrases and think psycho-jargon from a time long since past, a time when bell bottoms and free love were the rage.  (I’m not talking about the 2000’s by the way.)  It’s not just that it sounds dated, I also think that language hides a certain hypocrisy.  It’s like the people saying these things need to take their own advice and not take themselves so seriously. I don’t know, but no child I know sets out to be child-like.  They just are what they are.  Shouldn’t we just be who we are?

Damon Lindelof, creator of Lost

The panelists who I saw at Story World—each and everyone—all seemed to answer this question.  They made me realize that that is the point: people do not act as they really are; they act as they think others expect them to be, and hence, they need to be reminded to allow themselves to be child-like when the occasion calls for it.  According to speakers like Damon Lindelof (creator of Lost), Sean Bailey, the President of Disney, and Brian Clark (Transmedia guru), one such occasion is when creating narrative.

I already knew that as a writer/creative/storyteller/experience maker, I had to get my child on.  I mean, what is storytelling if it isn’t make-believe?  But at some point, I felt guilty for letting myself be that child who likes to revel in stories.  Sadly, make-believe is believed by many to be only for children.  After some time at Story World,  I realize that that is BS. Play is good and it’s nothing to be ashamed of.  In fact, I think if I’d let myself explore that inner child a bit more, my writing and my art would be all the more strong.  And I think the same is probably true for anyone who has to be creative.

What do you all think?  Does art require a childlike appreciation of play?  And if art does require an inner-child, does this mean I have to get out my bell bottoms?


being in LA without driving…and liking it

In life, observations, writing on October 20, 2012 at 7:38 am

I’m going to the Story World Conference in LA, my hometown.  And I’m getting there by train.  That’s normal enough in most towns, but did I mention this is LA?

This morning, I’m riding on a commuter train that is basically empty, which is an odd experience.  I am used to the morning hustle of the East Coast, specifically the trains in New York, which can be strange social exercises in that there are no other places in which you can be that close to someone without it being sexual.  But here in LA, people don’t seem to like that kind of morning intimacy; hence, the ghost train.

I almost don’t want to say this, but as I’m moving forward through the metropolitan Los Angeles area, it’s a good thing that this town is Democratic leaning.  I could just see someone like Paul Ryan grimacing if he saw all the open seats around me.  Of course, the dismay wouldn’t just be coming from the Right.  I could see a bunch of Left-leaning types getting up in arms about the waste of energy this empty train represents, a sign of the times: we just can’t keep going on like this, we just can’t keep raping the Earth.

I will table these concerns for a moment.  I’m actually experimenting right now.  I want to see if I can visit LA and not drive on the freeways, not drive at all.  I’m taking up this challenge in response to Alissa Walker.  If you’re from LA and you don’t know her blog, GelatoBaby, get yourself there.  And if you aren’t from LA, I’d still tell you to get over there.  It’s a must because she loves LA, and she certainly does love LA because she tries to see it for herself without falling back on clichés and stereotypes.  LA, I really think, can often be misunderstood.

she loves her gelatto, her Los Angeles, and walking while enjoying both

For the purposes of this post, the issue that I am most interested in has to do with Ms. Walker’s need to walk.  She does not drive, even though she lives in the heart of Los Angeles.  She takes buses, trains, and true to to her name, she walks a lot.  She makes the claim that this is possible.  And I’m going to use these next few days to see if she’s right.


9 Months & Out: Is It Better to Be Open or Focussed When Looking for a New Career?

In career, media on September 8, 2012 at 6:20 am


After too much deliberation, I am going to the motherland (Los Angeles where my mother does live, btw) in October, so I can join a lot of other writers/programmers/social media people for what I hope will be a learning experience.  Story World is not cheap, though it is not as expensive as some other professional conferences.  I’d tell you more about what the convention entails except that I’m not sure–not exactly.  The event is for storytellers who want to work across media and incorporate gaming aspects and social media into their narratives.  It’s not really about how to tell stories, as far as I can tell.  It’s more about how to use different media to create new ways to experience stories.

Apart from that, I imagine there will be a lot of trading of the biz cards.

In general, I’m of two minds about conferences. One part of me thinks they are a waste of time and money. I’ve gone to a couple for writers.  And it was fun to be around other members of the tribe, but I didn’t really get anything out of them, professionally or artistically.  How many times can you attend workshops like, “How to Sell Your Novel” or “How to get an Editor’s Attention”?  If it were all so easy, then there would be as many bad books published as there are crazy people writing them.

I’m hopeful that since Story World has a more technical component to it that the workshops will be a little more useful.  I also hope that since this kind of storytelling is mor collaborative than book writing that networking will be fruitful.

Still, I have my concerns.  If writer conferences are just a little too closed, a little too predictable, this kind of conference might be a little too open.  Story World is about new media and new media is so new and untested that it’s hard to know crazy from brilliant.  I think I can tell when a writer is being crazy: that 3,000 page tome about identity with detailed disembodied descriptions of the emotional lint is probably going to never see the light of day.  But who’s to say that some app that allows a person to put on goggles and see that lint for himself will not be the next great thing?

There’s an analog to my career quest. A year ago, I decided I would not pigeon hole myself about the kind of writer I would try to be.  I had tried to write a novel for 6 years because without much thought, I concluded that the novel was the only way to go as a writer.  But then I realized I had other interests: film, graphic novels, blogs, children’s books.  Hell, I even thought about trying to write for video games, which I still think would be frickin’ awesome.  Trying my hand at many different types of writing since then has freed me up enormously, and I think it has made me better.  I learned that I love to collaborate, that in the end, if I do get a book out and if it were to be read by any amount of people that I’d love that book to be a children’s book–one of those children’s books that adults could read, too.  But I also learned that I love to tell stories more than I love to write fiction books of a certain kind for a certain reader in a certain format known as a book.

Of course, there’s a downside to all of this: namely, it can leave you a little directionless, as with Story World, all this possibility leaves me not sure if what I’m producing is crazy crap or crazy good, or worse yet, not crazy enough to be either good or bad.

So, in October, I’m going to a conference to learn what I don’t know.  Am I a fool?  Maybe.  But maybe, that’s all you can do when you’re starting out on a new path.  Keep taking steps and hoping that if you drop enough business cards along the way, someone will find you and tell you where home is.

9 Months and Out, Lesson 2: DON’T WORRY ABOUT YOUR AGE….

In career, humor, life, media, observations, Uncategorized on September 1, 2012 at 6:15 am

I’m middle-aged, and I’m not happy about it.

The other day, I went some place for coffee.  It’s right across from a Starbucks, which I don’t pooh-pooh as a rule.  Starbucks is fine.  It’s good.  It’s ok.  I just felt like changing things up.  This other place is more hipster.  The lines are longer.  The people better looking–no tired looking middle-managers in khakis sitting around with their PC’s in this here place.  This was a Mac crowd, which if nothing else means the coffee is fair traded, cold-brewed with spices from the Himalayas and infused with Madagascar fairy dust–ingredients you pay for through the nose–pierced nose, naturally.

So, surrounded by all the new hipsters and the new shiny Apples, I ordered my Madagascar fairy-infused brew on ice and noticed that the barrista (hate that word) was wearing an LA Kings t-shirt.  In San Francisco, you don’t do this unless you’re looking for abuse.  For Angelinos, San Francisco is a quaint town up north.  In San Fran, LA is all pollution and water-theft and Satan.  Anyway, sensing a fellow Angelino, I asked the man where he was from.  He said Venice.  I grew up in next-door Santa Monica.  We smiled.  We were both Angelinos and Westsiders, to boot.  Cool.  Then he tells me he went to my high school.  Holy ducklesworth!  A fellow Viking!  I almost broke into our school song, which I, as a choir member back in the day, sang many many times at all kinds of events.

I decide against the singing, but still we’re all smiles at this point.  We’re on the same wavelength.  That is until the guy asks what year I graduated.  I feel a tightening around my smile.  I say, “I think I might be a little older,” and then, I tell him the year.  And that’s when he does the same.  He’s 16 years younger.  16.  Oh, fuck you, Mr. Coffee.  Go choke on your Madagascar BS coffee that gives me the runs.  He probably doesn’t even know the school song now that Prop 13 has removed music from the school.

Now, I wasn’t really pissed.  I just felt a little awkward especially because it seemed like he got awkward.  Of course, he probably got awkward because he sensed that I got awkward. Oh, who knows?  It doesn’t matter.  Why do I care?

I probably wouldn’t except that when you’re looking to build a new career as I am, you’re surrounded by young people by definition.  Usually, these young’ns don’t care about me.  I’m just another guy.  But in my head, I assume that they must be thinking  I’m some middle-aged loser.  My issues.  Not theirs.  Which is the moral of this little lesson: go and reinvent yourself if you need to and don’t let yourself be limited by the number of candles on your cake.

I’m 40. So take that, Mr. Coffee?  I can appreciate cool music and non-exploitative coffee like you.  But I have also lived long enough to know Starbucks is ok in a pinch.  I’m older.  Life has made me flexible and ready to drink any cup of coffee life’s barrista throws my way.

Why L.A. Haunts Me (a 1st attempt)

In life, observations, writing on March 17, 2012 at 7:22 am

What is it about LA?  Living in San Francisco, I like to make these supposedly happy positive people turn bitter by just mentioning my hometown.  I say this though in New York, where I lived before, I got a good dose of negativity, as well, whenever the topic came up .  I didn’t leave Los Angeles until my early twenties, so there were certain things I took for granted.  Like I never realized until many years later on the East Coast that the beach is considered to be part of nature.  For me, the beach is just an extension of the urban landscape.  It was like what downtowns are for other cities—a place for everyone to come together–the Vals, the cholos, the surfers and everyone else.  People think LA doesn’t have a center, but that’s not correct.  It’s just that the center doesn’t have buildings; it has sand.

Usually, when people bad-mouth LA, the best I can do is pump my chest and say it’s got its charms—faint praise indeed.  But recently, and this past weekend specifically, I started feeling differently about my hometown.  I’ve actually started becoming excited about what it holds within.  Similar to the way I feel when I go back to New York and cross one of the bridges and see that skyline, I got goosebumps driving around downtown LA.  Now, I said the experience was similar, but not the same.

Part of the reason I was excited was that I stayed away from the Westside this time out—which is where I grew up.  I focused on getting to know Downtown and the eastside.  To me, the really interesting stuff in LA, the stuff unique to the city is on the eastside of LA, which includes East LA, Los Feliz, Silver Lake, Echo and Highland Park.  These are the neighborhoods that have kept LA’s history as much of the rest of the town has become suburban and bland.  These neighborhoods have historically been less affluent, so the architecture has not changed.  If you’re poor, you can’t afford to gut your place when the spirit moves you.  A lot of times with neighborhoods like that, unless you grow up there, you don’t go there.  But the positive side of gentrification (meaning the early stages of it when poor artists and misfits of all kinds are moving in) has taken hold, and now, these neighborhoods are opening up.  Little hole-in-the-wall taquerias and pupuserias are everywhere, as are some artisan bakeries and coffee places.  It’s a good mix of flavors and of the people who create those flavors.  As a result, it should not come as a surprise that I was excited to explore this side of my hometown that I never explored growing up .

But as I write this and read it over, I’m not satisfied. For me, there’s something deeper going on.  It’s a feeling of excitement and dread that is specific to the city itself and not to my lack of experience of it.  There is, to put it bluntly, something unsettling about the place, which is not necessarily a bad thing.  Think about movies set in LA—not the average Hollywood film in which location is unimportant.  Think of those movies in which location is part of the story.  Think Chinatown.  Think Blade Runner.  In books, think Nathaniel West’s Day of the Locusts.  These are all negative examples, I know, and here’s another: The Salton Sea starring Val Kilmer.  The movie is about someone who, after the death of his wife, gets lost in a world of meth addicts and petty criminals.  The movie was fine, but what sticks with me is a scene inside a house.  It’s incredibly dark inside, and you assume it’s nighttime.  But at some point, a character opens a door and you realize that the darkness is an illusion created by incredibly thick curtains and masking tape applied to all the windows.  Outside, it is a bright, relentlessly bright, southern California day.   Inside is despair and desolation.

I think that severe a disconnect that could only occur in Los Angeles.  You can be in a dark and dank place back East—I’ve lived in a number of them over the years—and even in San Francisco, which is only 350 miles to the north, you could live in a sad place and just chalk it up to the fog.  But in LA, there’s this idea that the weather is not the only thing that is always bright and sunny.  People should be that way, too.  People, of course, are not always sunny.  And Angelinos are no different.  The difference is that the Angelino has to go to great lengths to make his home dreary and lifeless.  He has to put up thick curtains and apply rolls of tape to his windows to keep out that sun.  To lose himself in the shadows, he has to first construct those shadows.

I’m still not sure this gets at what I mean.  I’m not dark-tempered—not meth-junkie dark at least.  But driving east of downtown—looking at the skyline and the City Hall that’s been in so many movies, I can’t help but think there’s madness there.  Is it the sun?  That famous southern California sun is not always happy or pleasing, but a place like Phoenix is a heck of a lot hotter and the sun certainly is stronger there, and I don’t feel madness there.  I just feel bored.  Is it the fact that Hollywood has set a number of apocalyptic plotlines filmed in and around that skyline?  Maybe.  But why did those filmmakers do that?  I think they sensed something.

I don’t think LA was built on a native burial ground or on the site where virgins were massacred to some blood-thirsty God, but it’s almost as if that kind of energy lingers around the city.  New York is a city of a million dreams.  LA is like the place of a million Borges stories, which are dreams, of a sort.  I know some people say that dreams in LA shrivel up in the sun, but I think that’s a silly.  Something said by someone who lives in New York or San Francisco or Atlanta, someone who is looking for the cues of a city—the downtown, a center.  I know I dismissed LA for a long time.  But I’m not so sure anymore.  LA is a big city.  There is no denying that.  It is great city in the old sense of the word.  It is awesome, also in the original sense, but what I can’t figure out is why I am filled with an awe and fear when driving around.  What is it about LA?

Thanksgiving Chronicles, part 3

In life, observations, writing on November 27, 2011 at 10:59 am



So, I’m coming to the end of my stay down here in LA, and I’m a little sad.  Continuing my neuroticosity, I was sad to leave my wife for the weekend on Thursday and put it off, and now, I’m sad to leave my folks, but I am not just putting it off.  Instead, I’m sitting here in a Starbucks a couple blocks from my parents’ suburban track house.  I’m doing this in order to fight the temptation of staying at home and I’m doing this because I don’t want to cater to this weird fear that one day when my parents are no longer here, I will feel this overwhelming guilt for not having spent as much time as I can with them.  That’s an awful way to think.  I know I should focus on the now–all that Buddhist stuff.  What can I say?  I remember crying as an 8-year old thinking about my mother dying.  Where does THAT come from?  No idea.  Absolutely not a one.

So I’m here listening to some kind of falsetto-singing mellowness on the Starbucks authorized soundtrack for this store, and just this second, a couple of teenagers are sitting next to me drinking one of those mongo-sweet drinks that Starbucks likes to peddle–it’s like a dessert with a scoop of coffee thrown in for Starbucks product-inclusion, and I’m putting off working on my script for my first short, The Unfortunate Brother.  If I can get it done by January, the movie will be coming to you at a theater near you as long as you are near San Francisco.  I don’t know why I’m putting my writing off, but that’s another issue.  This is about Thanksgiving–right?

So, how about Thanksgiving?: malls, which I avoided, though I did run into traffic around an outlet mall late on Thursday night–the pre-dawn I-need-to-get-shit-cheaply crowd.  I can tell you that only a few miles from where I’m sitting, a woman pepper-sprayed her way to her bargains at a Walmart (see picture above).  Stupid and awful!!  By the way, the teenagers sitting next to me are Mormons.  Not that that’s important, except that my folks live right next to a Mormon church.  They are talking about mothers working and still being good moms.

OK, so back to Thanksgiving and the lessons I’ve learned this weekend: my folks are nuts (knew that already) but I still can have a good time with them (knew that, too.  They are good people.  And we’re all nuts.  Everyone.  (I kind of knew that, three.)  So what did I learn?  Not much. But I’m glad I came down.

Now, the Mormon kids are talking about working in film, and I know that that’s God’s way of saying I need to go work on my script.  SO, I will and I’ll be thankful.  As should you!

Thanksgiving Chronicles, part 3

In life, observations, writing on November 26, 2011 at 12:47 am


It’s a little after midnight on Saturday or is it Friday?  I really never remember.  I also never remember if I’m a first generation American because I was born here or if my parents are because they came here.  Doesn’t really matter in the end, I guess.  There’s a stamp date if you’re curious–not on me or my parents but on the entry. You knew that.

I’ve been listening to Marc Maron‘s WTF podcast during my whole trip down here.  I’m a little obsessed, which is probably why I’m kind of all over the place, but I’m hoping you’re also obsessed with Marc, or short of that, that you’ll be patient as I channel my inner-neurotic.  It’s been 24 hours since I got down here.  My wife is up north because she’s a baker and bakers don’t get time off around the holidays, so I’m here seeing my folks by myself, and right now, at this very moment, I’m at a coffee place in Santa Monica, less than a mile from where I went to high school.  I’m here because I decided that I was going to actually do some work.  Lately, I seem only to be able to work after drinking a double espresso while listening to Radiohead/Beirut surrounded by other suffering, procrastinating writers who almost to the man and woman work on 15 in. Apple laptops.  I have a 17 in. because I didn’t listen to a good friend years back about the trade off of two extra inches for ten added pounds, but that’s not important.  I just got here and though the place is open 24 hours, I will leave in an hour because A. I need to get up tomorrow and not waste the day like I did today, not that hanging out with my mom is wasting time, even if she loves Judge Judy and Everyone Loves Raymond and makes me watch while she nervously wonders why I’m not laughing.  Here’s the reason: Judge Judy is a real BITCH and Raymond sounds like he needs to blow his nose.

But I digress.

Here’s the question I have for you all: when you go home, do you feel the need to put everything off so that you can hang out with family who you don’t get to see that often?  I fel like the answer is yes. There’s more to life than work.  But on the other hand, Ray Romano is pretty hard to watch for long periods of time and his voice does not really facilitate mature family connection. Still, today, aside from talking and eating and napping, I really can’t say I got anything done, which is fine, but I waited for my folks to go to sleep so I could feel guiltless as I traveled mile after mile through the Los Angeles basin to hang with my sister for a couple hours so I could then get some LA in me and do some work. 212 Pier is tonight’s choice where old surfers are arguing about chess and a couple would-be novelists are facing Facebook.  Tomorrow, as part of what seems like my mini-tour of LA grungy coffee bars that serve charred espressos, I’m off to the Bourgeois Pig, an LA spot for suffering screeenwriters who I’m sure also look at Facebook or Tweet.  The only difference between the Pig and this place is that from what I’ve heard the Pig (not sure of they call it that, but I’m not sure if I’m spelling Bourgeois correctly) is across the street from Scientology’s Hollywood headquarters.  If I don’t get any work done tomorrow night, I guess I can join Scientology and drown my sadness in L. Ron Hubbard.  That’s not sad.  Not at all.

Stay tuned.

My brain and the 405 Freeway–what they have in common…

In life, observations, Uncategorized, writing on July 23, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Being from LA, the land of Freeways, I grew up with traffic jams.  A lot of times, it was obvious why we were all stuck.  Up ahead, you could see what was left of a front fender or a headlight.  As you got closer, you could see a couple drivers on the side of the road comparing insurance policies, or the orange lights on a state trooper’s car.  OK, that makes sense.  But then there are those jams in which you are stuck until at some point–seemingly a random point–you start up again.  A few feet before, you weren’t parked, and then, POOF and you’re free again.  WHY does that happen?

I know there are book about this.  I believe from reading around the edges of this seeming modern-day mystery, that the explanation has something to do with group psychology.  Kind of like an ant colony in which all its members decide to do the same thing.  Mostly, ants move when this happens, which makes me wonder if we humans are so superior to our insect-friends cause we seem to like being stuck when our group-think instinct kicks in.

In any case, I was thinking about this today when I finally started doing research on literary agents for my short story collection.  Last month, I finally crafted the model for my query letter, and for most of July, I have put off actually doing the research on the agents because it just seemed so daunting.  There are so many agents, and they are all so specific about what they want.  It’s not like you can do a mass-mailer.  You have to craft each letter specifically to the person you’re writing.  In a sense, my brain was all jammed up.  I was stuck.  But then, this morning,  just like with the strange, causeless jam I referenced above, when I got down to work I realized that there was nothing in my way except…except…nothing.  I have been stuck for a month for no apparent reason.  Yes, there are a lot of agents, and yes, they are a picky lot (no offense to anyone out there who might be an agent, though if you are an agent, I do have a collection for you) but it’s doable  It’s all about one step at a time.

This isn’t to say that I think I’m limitless–that by just adjusting my thinking, I’d be on my way.  Sometimes, there are obstacles–sometimes a driver does turn into you, and sometimes, you suck and there’s just no way around that suckiness until you push through to a less-sucky place.  But it does make me wonder how much more I could do with my days if I let myself find out for myself what the cause of the jam is instead of worrying about what turns out to be nothing.


What do Kobe Bryant and Lionel Messi have in common?

In observations, Uncategorized on June 26, 2010 at 9:17 pm

I know. Bear with me as I am going a little World Cup crazy, but I saw this article, and I thought I’d share. It seems that Kobe Bryant had a brief encouter with Lionel Messi at the Olympics. The two spoke and Kobe told Lionel what most of us know already: that Messi is the man.

Can I add that as a Los Angeles native whose father’s family comes from Argentina, I feel connected to this encounter. Though I know it sounds foolish to say it, I am.

Here’s the link:–fbintl_ro-kobemessi062610.html

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