Monday, December 25, 2006

No reindeer in Austin, but they've got goats. And notes on the continuing decline of my standards.

I was staying in a cabin outside Austin with my friend Nic and his family for Christmas. While walking through the woods, we saw a bunch of goats on their way to a Christmas party of some sort. Check it out:

And here's me with Nic and his mom and dad. If me and Nic's family were in a band, this is probably what one of our band photos would look like:

His family not only opened their home to me for the holidays, but got me some cool presents too. Amongst the goodies were gift cards for Chinese restaurant, P.F. Chang's, and Banana Republic. That's kind of funny because when I first moved here, these two chain establishments brought to mind how Los Angeles had kind of lowered my standards. On my first week at work in LA, one of my co-workers invited me out for Chinese food. I accepted, but changed my mind when I heard it was P.F. Chang's. As a New Yorker, I didn't consider P.F. Chang's real Chinese food any more than I considered Pizza Hut to be Italian food. After being called a snob, I broke down and went:

Week 1 in LA: P.F. Chang's is not Chinese food.
Week 2 in LA: P.F. Chang's is alright I guess if there's nothing else around.
Week 3 in LA: Wow, I could go for some P.F. Chang's.

And in NYC, I would never go to Banana Republic. There were too many cool thrift stores in the East Village to even bother. But out here, it's all too spread out and sunny to be bothered hunting for clothes. Banana Republic is easy. LA is all about easy. Little by little, my standards get lowered in exchange for easy. And my gift cards will make it all even more Los Angeles-ier, I mean easier. Wise-ass rants aside, I really will enjoy the gifts.
Banana Republic does have cool socks, which I really need since all the ones I own have holes in them. And I've already become addicted to the Chicken Lettuce Cups at Chang's. Thanks Briseno family! (especially for the fancy kaleidescope Eddie and Harriett). Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Let's meet our fellow flyers.

I'm at the airport on my way to Austin, with my ticket in hand for the post-911 security sideshow. I've removed liquids and gels from my carry-on luggage. I've worn my good socks in preparation for taking off my shoes. I've severed al my ties to Al-Qaeda (except you Shakir, we've got something special, don't worry.)

But hey, what's this middle-eastern looking guy in front of me trying to check in?




I don't know what the hell trigger spray is, but it sounds a hell of a lot more dangerous than all the body wash they've been confiscating.

So, who else is here at the airport? There's this guy getting his shoes shined. I found this guy to be quite an oddity. If you care enough about your appearance to get your boots shined, why would you wear them with white socks?

Holiday on Ice. (well, water)

It sounded like a big party was brewing down the street. It grew louder and louder until it seemed too loud to be a party that could fit into any of the neighboring small houses.

I went to investigate and found a hundred or so people lining the canals to watch a Christmas parade along the waterways.

Leave it to LA to figure out how to have a parade without tying up traffic.

A Christmas story.

Now that I'm in LA, there's a few things I miss about Christmas in New York. One is snow. Another is walking along streets lined with Christmas trees for sale.

A few years ago, I became fascinated by the Christmas tree vendors who descend upon NYC. For a little over a month every year, these guys leave their Canadian tree farms and LIVE in vans parked throughout Manhattan. It must be quite a culture shock.

I figured it'd be a good topic for a documentary. My plan was to capture the drama behind the scenes of country-folk trying to bring holiday cheer to millions of hardened New Yorkers. I also thought it was interesting how these trees play such an integral role in so many people's holidays, yet little is known about those who cultivate them. So, I set out to make my little movie happen.

Having been raised Jewish, I knew nothing about buying a Christmas tree. How much are they? Do they come in sizes and kinds? Do you tip the sales person? My first step was to research the buying process. That day, I visited the very next Christmas tree vendor I saw. I started asking the salesperson my questions. When I got personal, he got suspicious:

"Are you looking to buy a tree or not sir?"

"Well, to be honest, I'm thinking about doing a documentary on you Christmas-Tree-People."

"No fucking way! I'm not really a Christmas-Tree-Person. I'm a filmmaker working with these guys as research for a documentary!"

What are the chances this would be the first tree guy I ever approached in my life? I half expected all the customers to confess they were merely researching roles as extras in a shopping scene. So there we were. Me pretending to be a customer. Him pretending to be a sales guy. Only in New York. That's one of the other things I miss about Christmas in New York - there's just enough holiday spirit in the air for even the most jaded of urbanites to drop their defenses and realize what they have in common.

We bonded over our phoniness and agreed to try and work together. Alas, he had a baby and shelved his movie plan. I moved here to LA. And while I no longer get to see sidewalks lined with holiday trees, I do live on the Venice Canals amongst some beautifully decorated homes. However, this massive house down the street from me (see below) goes overboard every year.

They do something similar every Halloween too, complete with motion-sensor activated animatrons on the lawn:

You know inside this house there's a loveless marriage.

This being my first LA Christmas, what better place to spend it than in Texas? Yep, I'm off to hang out with my friend Nic and his family in a cabin outside of Austin. Happy holidays!

Friday, December 22, 2006

My collection of "people with psuedo-sexual surnames oddly linked to their professions" continues to grow.

Recently, I came across this story about the possibility circumcision may cut the risk of HIV (you can read the article here).

And who's the representative from the World Health Organization weighing in on the matter? Doctor Kevin De Cock of course.

This will look great on the shelf next to my previous find.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Holy crap, it's been a long time since I posted.

Apparently, documenting the minutiae of my life is such strenuous work, I've had to take a full month off from posting just to recharge.

I recently went back to NYC to shoot some commercials I wrote for ESPN's College Game Day Basketball show. One of the stars of these spots was former Duke star, Jay Bilas. He's an awfully nice guy and did a great acting job. Here's a shot of us trying to see who's taller:

In my defense, he's on his tippy-toes.

We shot with the talented and cool director, Adam Goldstein. You can see his reel here. The shoot went very well and it looks like we got some funny spots "in the can," as they say.

It was great being back home, seeing my friends/family. Speaking of friends and family, here's a pic I took when I was back home of Nic and Ilya busy being Nic and Ilya.

Ahhh, that Ilya, such a rapscallion with his nasty fingers.