Posted in Around Town, Film


Dear People of Pasadena and everyone else in the greater LA area,

I know you want to rush right out and see Michael Moore’s new film SiCKO, but wait. Please wait.

Please wait until Tuesday, July 10 at 5:00 p.m. There’s going to be a special screening of SiCKO at the Laemmle Playhouse 7 to benefit the Community Health Alliance of Pasadena (CHAP). For those who aren’t familiar with it, CHAP is a nonprofit medical and dental clinic in Northwest Pasadena that provides low cost, high-quality health care.

The suggested donation for tickets is $10, and after the screening there is going to be a panel discussion about the state of health care in California next door at Vroman’s Bookstore (or as my brother calls it, The Five Romans).

Here’s how to get tickets:

Call Ellen Johnson at 626-398-6300 ext. 21. If you get the machine, press *8 and then you can enter the extension number. She’ll take your info, and you can pick up the tickets at the theatre.

Only $10 suggested donation, people! Hope to see you there!

Here’s CHAP’s waiting room, taken by The Scout (site in progress). If you look closely, you can see his reflection.

CHAP Waiting Room

CHAP Waiting Room 2

Posted in Grindstone, Self Care

Jury Duty: ‘The Secret’ is Out

Jury duty is emotionally exhausting. Wait a minute, I wasn’t impaneled. Voir dire is emotionally exhausting for potential juror #15 (that’s moi in voir dire). The case involved two defendants, both on drug charges. One of the defendants is homeless and admits that he is an addict. He sported an ivory-colored rosary to make his relationship with recovery clear.

The judge asked us to talk about family or friends who have substance abuse problems or who have been to rehab. I have stepdaughters who’ve battled methamphetamine addiction, so I had to recount this for the other 64 potential jurors, all the court personnel, the defendants and their counsel, and even the family/friends of the defendants who were there to witness the proceedings. Ouch. So ouch that I didn’t even want to write this post.

The judge was very compassionate, and acknowledged the difficulty of the situation. The behavior of these family members has had a huge impact on me, and that impact rolled right on into a new situation, this jury selection process.

The Secret would have me believe that I attracted this situation, that my negative thoughts led me to be part of a family with negativity. Among the myriad results of that negativity, at the bottom of the pile is that I was not chosen for the jury as I hoped I would be.

The best lies have a little truth in them, and The Secret fits the bill. Yes, positive thinking often yields a positive attitude, which may yield positive results in the 3-D world. But not always.

Here’s an example: I have written proposals to help non-profit organizations raise money. You do your best and you hope real hard that the funder likes what you’ve said. Sometimes they do, sometime they don’t. Can a mess o’ my positive thoughts change what the funder thinks? If I don’t think positive thoughts, am I to blame if the funder responds negatively?

The Secret wants us to believe that we have negative thoughts, conscious and unconscious, and those thoughts control our situations. The idea that the victims of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina had thoughts that attracted them “to being in the wrong place at the wrong time” is simply horrendous.

It’s easy to see how this quickly becomes “blame the victim” mentality. It creates a “them” and an “us” which is antithetical to community building. I think we all lost something on September 11, 2001, whether we were personally acquainted with any of the victims or not. Any of us could have been on those planes or in those buildings. We all lost something when our government botched the rescue of, and assistance for the victims of Hurricane Katrina.

The funny part is that I was introduced to The Secret by a friend who had a bootleg copy of the film. So did author Rhonda Byrne think a negative thought that resulted in the unauthorized copying and distribution of her film? Or has she “attracted” so much money at this point that it doesn’t matter?

More on The Secret here and its history here.

Posted in Grindstone

Jury Duty Update

I was dismissed.  The judge told me not to take it personally, which I don’t.  I just wish I didn’t have the personal history with substance abusers and law enforcement that I have.

Posted in Cool Stuff, Grindstone

Jury Duty!

Call me a hopeless romantic, but tomorrow I have jury duty and I’m looking forward to it. For years, I have had to say “no” to jury duty because I was “responsible for the care of minors under the age of 18 between 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.” Since that is no longer the case, I received my summons as if it were an invitation to a grand ball, complete with a coupon to buy a great dress for the occasion.

I think it’s my love of courtroom drama. Twelve Angry Men, Judgment at Nuremburg, To Kill a Mockingbird–even My Cousin Vinnie. I saw a fabulous play, The Caine Mutiny Court Marshal, on stage in Hollywood some years ago with Charleton Heston (politics aside, the man was a great actor). Let’s not forget Perry Mason, who was probably the progenitor of it all.

My older son was called in for jury duty earlier this year. He was surprised how many people were dismissed from duty because their English language skills were lacking. Actually, he was frustrated because he felt those people were wasting his time. After two days, my son was dismissed too. It was a trial involving a suspected gang member, and my son’s pants were a little too baggy for the prosecution’s comfort.

My fantasy is that it will be a murder case with the prosecution seeking the death penalty, and I’ll make an eloquent extemporaneous speech opposing the death penalty, bringing the courtroom to tears. I’ll be dismissed as a juror, but will go out in style.

Posted in Around Town

I’ll Never Take the Bus to Monty’s

Another Pasadena institution is on the way out…Monty’s Steak House is closing (via LA Observed). I love the *idea* of a place like Monty’s, all retro and naugahyde and red meat is good for you. But Monty’s didn’t float my boat. It was a little too expensive and not special enough to justify the expense. Still, I hate to see that wonderful signage go. Looks like Grandview Palace will go along with it—that’s a bummer. I love the fish tank decor, and what’s more, they deliver to my neighborhood! (Meanwhile, Rick’s is hanging on by a thread, with no word on a new location.)

The closing of Monty’s must be related to the South Fair Oaks Innovation Corridor. The rumor is that medical offices will go up in that choice location–the southeast corner of Fair Oaks Ave. and California Blvd. Perhaps the new building (please, God, don’t let it be too ugly) will house a cardiologist or two to treat those who frequented Monty’s (seen in situ here–thanks maasgarid).

My most recent encounter with Monty’s was observing it while sitting on Fair Oaks Avenue. Tried to drive in that vicinity lately? Not pretty at lunch time. Not pretty at pick-up-kids-from-school time, or 5:00 pm quitting time. I was southbound on Fair Oaks just north of California and watched the light change three times before I made it through the intersection. Does someone really expect me to do this by bus?

Yes. Pasadena’s city planners operate under the utopian urban development philosophy that believes long-time drivers will willingly give up their cars in an effort to replicate Manhattan in Southern California (a New York with better weather—nice idea). So the utopians offer these options to get me out of my car. But I think carbon monoxide fumes have gotten to their heads: some people will get out of their cars but most won’t.

I’m something of a utopian myself, and an environmentalist, but those are my higher selves. The truth is I’m a public transportation dilettante. I want to get out of my car, but who has the time? I take the bus when I consciously choose to take extra time to travel, leading to an immediate feeling of self-righteous superiority over the car-laden masses. Riding the bus is less stressful than driving, but only if I’m not on a schedule. If I need to get somewhere fast and/or on-time, I tend to get in my car. This tendency is not good for the environment. I’m still running internal combustion engine 2.0 (with requisite catalytic converter).

What will it take to wrest people like me from my beat up Subaru? Wi-fi on the bus is great idea. Bart has it.

I generally try to read on the bus, but a lot of times I end up looking out the window and letting my mind gloat float. This apparently unproductive activity may not in fact be a waste of time: Team Banzai proposes that the best ideas are born in three places: the bus, the bath and the bed. I’m a big fan of Buckaroo Banzai, so props to the good professor for recognizing that innovative ideas come from a relaxed and receptive brain. Here’s a link to an abstract which also posits that you might have your best ideas when you’re not trying to have them. It’s called “infraconscious mentation.” I think the city hall utopians should use this as part of their marketing scheme to get folks out of their cars. Parking meters on South Lake Avenue will not do the trick.

People will choose their cars and the traffic for much longer than the utopian urban planners expect. And by the way, just how do those planners get around?

My pledge to you, dear reader, is that I will choose alternative transportation from time to time, and you’ll be the first to know of my sufferings adventures.

UPDATE: Well, Pasadena City Council hasn’t forgotten the beleaguered drivers of this town. They just voted to spend $2,450,000 to buy 600 parking spaces at the Del Mar Gold Line station. Thanks to Todd Ruiz for the heads up.

* * * * *

Congratulations to Pasadena Weekly‘s Kevin Urich who was recognized by the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies. Kevin tied for the top spot in media criticism among smaller weekly papers. Way to watchdog, Kev! He’s splitting the $300 prize with a reporter from North Carolina. Think he’ll blow it on a final dinner at Monty’s? Think he’ll take the bus, or drive?

Posted in Let's Get Visual

Font’s Point

The Scout is working on a big campaign for a financial services company Ameriprise. Some of the spots are already on the air…you may have seen them. They feature an iconic American actor/artist/rebel Dennis Hopper as the spokesperson, and he’s standing by a chair. Can’t be more specific about it (until they are on the air)–I’m just explaining why there is a chair in these photographs.

Font’s Point is truly one of the coolest places on earth, a jewel in the diversity that is California’s landscape (it’s in Anza-Borrego Desert State Park).

Font’s Point w/chair 1

Font’s Point w/chair 2

Font’s Point w/chair 3

Posted in Current Events, Grindstone

Wilma Allen: An Appreciation

Wilma Allen died last Wednesday (6 June). I worked for Wilma at the Pasadena Public Health Department in the late 90’s, and she was a founding board member at CHAP (Community Health Alliance of Pasadena)–I’ve been a consultant there since 2001. I also helped write the big proposal that garnered federal funding for the Pasadena Healthcare Link.

It wasn’t always easy to work with Wilma, but it was rewarding because the work was (and is) important. Connecting people who have limited resources to health care, involving the community in providing those services (them is us, by the way), and trying to get service providers to coordinate efforts…these are some of the mountains we tried to climb on a regular basis. Trying to do these things within the city’s bureaucracy is challenging, but Wilma was adept and tenacious.

At the top of the list entitled “Life Is Not Fair” is Good People With Horrible Diseases. Wilma suffered terribly from a debilitating disease, scleroderma. She was in pain a lot, and she endured countless efforts (including chemotherapy) to keep her condition under control. She soldiered on at work when she probably felt like being at home in bed. I would have been at home in bed, but Wilma was a fighter. She didn’t stay home, she didn’t curl up and die when doctors told her she had two years to live (that was about 12 years ago). Her vision to get people connected to the health care they need kept her up and at work. This vision kept her alive, and she fought to make it keep her alive.

Last week and over the weekend, I kept waiting for the Pasadena Star News to note Wilma’s passing. When they didn’t, I e-mailed Larry Wilson (the editor). So many others were closer to Wilma than I have been in the last few years, so I feel a little self-concious about being quoted in today’s article. At the same time, I think that the CHAP clinic is a central feature of Wilma’s legacy here in Pasadena, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to share that.

Oh Ms. Wilma, how we will miss you!

Posted in TV

The Sopranos

I’m okay with how The Sopranos ended, and here’s why:

1. David Chase is the writer. The writer is “the decider.” He gets to decide how it ends, regardless of the usual television convention of wrapping things up in a neat package. (In most of television, the writer is not the decider. Thanks to HBO for having the guts to let the writer do his job.) It is not Chase’s job to help the American public deal with their emotional connection to fictional characters, nor to deal with their loss of a Sunday night tradition.

2. David Chase didn’t kill Tony, he killed the audience. By “pulling the plug” at that most pregnant moment, he forced us to look at our own anticipation of that moment, to fill in the blank for ourselves.

The blank said two things to me: 1) Well, that’s a wide avenue for the start of a feature film. 2) The bad guy does get away with it. Despite taking some hits, Tony is still king. Same as it ever was.

Eating out in public was Tony’s way of affirming his supremacy, and it was also a convenient way to bring out the next wave of opposition (the Russians are coming, the Russians are coming).

The timing of the blank screen was a brilliant way for Chase to challenge our assumptions about what we believe television owes us. We wanted Tony to get whacked, because that would be justice. We wanted him to get whacked in front of his family so that, even in their grief, they could finally escape their denial about Tony, escape their complicity in his crooked business.

That blank screen also woke me out of my tv slumber. Has my cable suddenly gone out? Chase challenged my own tv addiction. I was not a regular viewer of The Sopranos, but of course I watched the final show. Like the rest of America. Who wants to be left out of Monday-morning quarterbacking (especially if you’re a writer)?

That screen went blank, and I knew it was over, but I didn’t want it to be over because at some level I wanted that neatly wrapped package.

Upon reflection, that blank screen opened a world of possibility, a world of possibility beyond watching tv. I might have spent my Sunday evening reading. Or even better, writing.