Sunday, March 1, 2015

Birthday Month

Margaret Finnegan had a great idea. During February, her birthday month, she would do 50 good deeds. Not only did she think it up, she followed through, posting her results on Facebook.

I'd like to imitate Margaret but I'm not as nice as she is, so I've come up with something else for my birthday month in March. I'm going to have a minimum of one adventure each week and I'll tell you about my adventures here. I'm allowed to do this instead of good deeds because I'm older than Margaret, and by god, some adventure is in order.

For my current purposes, an adventure is something I haven't done before or somewhere I haven't been before, preferably inexpensive or free and not too far away. I've got Elizabeth Pomeroy's wonderful Lost and Found as my guide, and I'd be glad to have your suggestions, too.

I'll try to do some good deeds while I'm at it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

An Informed Public

Transparency in government is always an issue, and lately the spotlight is on Pasadena. So an event coming up at the Women's City Club and hosted by the League of Women Voters-Pasadena Area is particularly timely.

The deadline for reserving lunch is today, February 26th! For the discussion, you can reserve as late as March 4th.

Thursday March 5 at 9:30 AM, get a load of this panel: Ann Erdman (former Pasadena Public Information Officer), Karen Foshay (Al Jazeera-Los Angeles), Noelia Rodriguez (Chief Communications Officer, Metro Los Angeles) and Keri Stokstad (Executive Director, Pasadena Media) will appear on a panel moderated by Val Zavala (VP of News and Public Affairs at KCET). The topic: the public's right to know.

Each panelist has their own perspective, of course. It'll be interesting to hear what they have to say. The presentation is free and open to the public, but seating is limited so you must have a reservation! Call 626-798-0965 or e-mail to let them know you're coming. If you'd like to stay for lunch (optional, $25) and more conversation about open government, sign up online here:

Park behind the Club in their lot off Madison. It's free.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Ten Hands - Five Pianos

This was new to me: ensemble piano playing on the fly. Like maybe you've never even read the music before, much less met the other players. You just get together and play. Each person plays a different part of the music. It's like an orchestra of fingers.

Veteran musician David Cutter is Mr. David of He teaches all levels and all kinds of pianists. (Note the cherub in the background of the photo above.) Last weekend, he got five people together to play Pachelbel's Canon, Home on the Range and a gorgeous traditional French Christmas carol, a stunner because: I hadn't heard it, it's dramatic, and these people had never played together before.

Plus I liked the reception.

But here's what I love most about this story: David got this idea and he ran with it. He searched for the pianos, got Arroyo Seco Time Bank members to help move them, and he converted his garage to a piano studio. He was driven to do it and he did it. He's got 6 pianos in there!

David's main goal is "to educate, and ensembles are part of the process to becoming a musician. Yes, the sightreading and spur of the moment stuff is fun," he says, "but what I want people to do is sign up for an ongoing ensemble class where we perfect a piece of music as opposed to just read through stuff."

Wanna play?

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Pasadena Library's 2nd Annual Author Fair

Are you coming by Pasadena's Central Library (285 E. Walnut St.) this Saturday, February 21st? Of course you are, because it's highly likely that at least one of your author friends (me) will be there. And probably more than one.

It's the library's 2nd annual Author Fair, 10am-2pm, and oh boy! Everyone's going to be there! Look at this list of authors:

Marcella Adams, Maria Alexander, Cindy Arora, Ontresicia Averette, Anne Louise Bannon, Julie Berry, Boualem Bousseloub, Mary Brodsky, Petrea Burchard, Stuart Douglass Byles, Christina Cha, Justin Chapman, Regina Conroy, Joey L. Dowdy, Quoleshna Elbert, Carol Elek, Jamie Eubanks, Jess Faraday, Kenneth Grant, Anjeza Angie Gega, Steven Gibson, Ken Goldstein, Michael Paul Gonzalez, Reg Green, Claudia Heller, Lisa Hernandez, Rubin Johnson, Lloyd Kaneko, Gay Toltl Kinman, Sarai Koo, Ph.D./ Gail Taylor, Jay Mathews, Dan McLaughlin, Kay Murdy, Elizabeth Pomeroy, Adrienne Ramsey-Harris, Raquel Reyes-Lopez, Thelma Reyna, Susan S. Rosvall, Jo Anne Sadler, Kathy Salama, Gisele Samaan, Yvette Samaan, Yvonne Senkandwa, Jason Silva, Lucie Simone, Frederick Smith, Ellen Snortland & Lisa Gaeta, Lynn Martin Snowden & Kyle Sydney Powell, Rick Stepp-Bolling, Diane E.M. Tegarden,Mary Terzian, Larissa Theule, Alicia Thompson, Marcia L. Thompson, Sarah Thursday, Cherie Mercer Twohy, Erika Wain Decker, Nancy Woo, Nancy Young, and last but absolutely not least, Desiree Zamorano!!!

All during the Fair, authors will read from their works in the Auditorium. While Desiree reads from The Amado Women at 10:30, I'll be covering for her at her signing table (no, I will not sign her books). At 11:10am she'll cover for me while I read something funny, or maybe something poignant—poignant, yeah, that's it—from my new book, Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand.

You can buy an autographed copy from me and I'll have a few copies of Camelot & Vine on hand as well. Or just stop by and say hi. There's no pressure to buy anything, though you might want to get yourself a treat at the Espress Yourself coffee shop (pictured) on the library grounds.

All these authors will be there to sign their books and answer your questions. Or maybe ask you some!

Sunday, February 15, 2015


A previous owner of our house tex-coated the place and that has always kind of bothered me.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


I've had tinnitus since 1977. My ears have not stopped ringing for 38 years—as in eeeeeeeeeeeee.

You get used to it, sort of. You have to, because tinnitus is incurable. And you don't always notice it because there are distractions like conversation, radio, etc.

My hearing is fine. It's just that inside my head there's this high-pitched eeeeeeeeeeeee going on all the time. It gets pretty loud in here.

We tinnitus sufferers are a desperate bunch. We don't want to hear eeeeeeeeeeeee all the time. So imagine my ecstasy when I found an online ad for a surefire cure! I don't usually click on ads but this might be it!

There's an audio file. No video. I like audio files because they distract from the eeeeeeeeeeeee. The man tells me he was once a sound engineer and he got tinnitus and he found a doctor and all you have to do is eat these foods, readily available on your grocer's shelves. "I was amazed I had waited so long, searched so far, and the solution was simple! All I had to do was eat these foods!" he said, not mentioning what the foods were.

Then there were testimonials. Many testimonials. "Thanks, Joe" (or Hiram or Zeke or whoever), "I had tinnitus and now I don't because I follow your program and eat these foods!"

Over and over again, without telling me about the foods. eeeeeeeeeeeee.

I listened for as long as I could stand it, hoping to learn the secret. Carrots? Canned pineapple? Ice cream?

After a long time JoeHiramZeke still hadn't told me a damned thing. I turned it off.

I know when I'm being had. I'd rather listen to eeeeeeeeeeeee.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Act As If Big Launch!

Stats: have I posted this before?

Update, 2/11/15: I have a venue for the launch! More info soon.


Act As If: Stumbling Through Hollywood with Headshot in Hand is available on Amazon, and will soon be available on Smashwords, Kobo, iBooks, etc.

But I haven't actually launched it yet.

What would be a fun way to launch? Did you like the Camelot Where You Are contest? Should we do something like that this time, or should we try something else? A party? A read-a-thon? All three?

I did a lot of pre-publicity for Camelot & Vine and it was fun. I guess you'd call this launch "post-publicity," but they say there's no such thing as bad publicity, so I'm good with all of it—pre, post and bad.

If you've read either book, please review! Any number of stars is welcome.

By the way (which is what BTW used to mean), this round of the Story Kitchen workshop still has openings. Call the Flintridge Bookstore & Coffeehouse to sign up. (818) 790-0717. Methinks my friend the Oscar-nominated screenwriter will stop in one evening.

Saturday, January 31, 2015


I signed up for the bluefeet newsletter because I like it and I learn from it. Bluefeet was founded by Lilli Cloud "to help people achieve their potential by capturing and communicating what makes them and their work extraordinary." Scroll to the bottom of any page of the bluefeet website and sign up if you want to get the newsletter, too.

This time around, Lilli and her staff sent a newsletter entitled, "Getting Your Flow On." They included a link to an article about multitasking. It says multitasking is bad for your brain.

I don't know if that's true. I get my flow on in multiple ways, all at the same time.

When John comes home and I'm nowhere to be found—the bed is half-made, some of the dishes are put away, the bathtub is squeaky clean but not the bathroom floor—I'm probably in the garage because that's where the filing cabinet is.

If multitasking is bad for my brain, that could explain the roots of my noun problem. I often have to grapple to find the word I'm looking for. I always stumble over "Brussels sprouts" and "sideboard," for example. I have no idea why these in particular give me trouble. Sometimes when I write and the word I want is not available, I write OWTTE (or words to that effect) or FABW (find a better word) and move on, hoping it'll come to me while I'm editing. It usually does. (It has to. I'm not finished until it does.)

I had a little trouble understanding the multitasking article because I had to switch screens between paragraphs to read another article I was reading about  the dwarf planet Ceres. Did you know it gets up to -28 degrees Fahrenheit up there? Hey, I've spent winters in Chicago. -28F is livable! Or it would be, if Ceres had an atmosphere. I don't remember anything else about the article but it gave me something to do between paragraphs in the multitasking piece.

I used to think my multitasking was a talent but now I know it's frenzied (FABW). It's time for me to buckle down, concentrate and focus (OWTTE), or I'll never GTD (get things done).

Friday, January 23, 2015


More than once I've proudly announced mentioned that I don't have a TV. John and I got rid of our TV a few years ago when we realized we were paying $140 a month for programming that didn't interest us enough to actually watch it.

But just because I don't have a TV doesn't mean I don't watch my favorite shows in the evening. 

Embedded above is the first episode of "Tudor Monastery Farm," a BBC documentary series. Historian Ruth Goodman is joined by archaeologists Peter Ginn and Tom Pinfold to make up a trio of unlikely TV stars. They show us how life was lived by poor people in the Tudor era. It wasn't all Henry VIII and his wives.

I ate that show like ice cream.

Then I moved on to "Secrets of the Castle," and watched my friends learn how to build a 13th century French castle with nothing but the materials that were available 800 years ago.

With popular "historical" TV, films and fiction about England and France, we often learn about royalty and politics, but rarely do we get a view of the common people. It might have been all fancy balls and intrigue at court, but most other places it was just plain work.

Now I'm watching Tales from the Green Valley, shot on a 16th century Welsh farm. It's apparent that this show was done earlier than the first two because Tom isn't in it. Peter is younger and for some reason they're calling him "Fonz."

After this I'll move on to "Victorian Farm," then "Edwardian Farm," then maybe "WWII Farm," which doesn't interest me quite as much. But Ruth, Tom, Peter and their guest stars—thatchers, pig experts, millers, stonemasons, etc.—are enthusiastic, charming and real, and I will follow my new favorite stars anywhere, even to the muddy fields of the mid-20th century.

This is my kind of TV.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

A Good Turnout

The Story Kitchen seminar had a good turn-out last night at the Flintridge Bookstore and Coffeehouse. It was an excellent group—interesting people with fascinating stories.

We had some sign-ups for the six week writing class and there's room for just a few more, so call the store at 818-790-0717 and tell them you want in!

Monday, January 19, 2015

Friday, January 9, 2015

Dear Aunt Petrea

The famous author, Haruki Murakami, has announced he's going to write an advice column on his website.

Hell, I can do that! I can give advice on all kinds of subjects. I'm happy to tell you what to do. Just let me know what the problem is and I'll set you straight. Here are some examples of my useful guidance:

Dump the sucker.

No, no, black is sooo 2007.

Feed it to the cat.

It takes about two years.

Milk. I'm not kidding. It works.

Really! Just ask me. I'm glad to receive queries of any kind, in any language (I have Google Translate!). I will share my opinions on dogs, sports and dogs. And anything else I can spell, or sound out.

Just ask your questions in the comments and off we go!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Why dictation software is not for me

So she enters the room, and—no. No so. And this should be past tense so she entered—stop. Go back to so. No so, too many sos, go back to—start over.

She entered the room, and he thought


Why did it turn off? Aren't I allowed to think for a few seconds? Stop. Start again.

Maybe entered isn't good enough. Stop. Start again.

She swept into the room—ugh. Cliché. She glided. Glid? Glided. Start over.

She glided into the room 

That just doesn't look right.

All eyes went to the door as she entered. 

Stop. Eyes do not go to doors. 

All eyes were on her as she glided into the room.

Can eyes be on somebody? They can look on somebody.

All eyes looked on her as she glided into the room.



--> Oh, pigpigpiggypig blahblah. Blah! Stop!



Tuesday, December 30, 2014

A Warm New Year's Wish

NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory on a cold night in 2011

To those from other places currently gracing Pasadena with your visit, be it for the holidays, the Tournament of Roses Parade, the Rose Bowl Game or merely lunch, welcome. 

I hope the weather warms up for you. A frosty night is no big deal in many parts of the world, but in Pasadena on New Year's Eve, if you camp out on Colorado Blvd., air horns and silly string are not going to keep you warm. 

Does anyone recall a (relatively) recent Tournament of Roses Parade when it rained? 2006, maybe. I remember those poor majorettes in their skimpy costumes, their booties filling with water, gamely tossing their batons but unable to catch them because the rain kept getting in their eyes. Everyone was freezing, even the horses. 

It won't be that way this year. The forecast says things will warm up a couple of degrees for Thursday, parade day. It'll be sunny, if a bit crisp. That's OK. When you're marching 5 miles, you tend to heat up. At least, so I imagine.

Happy 2015 to us all. I mean it.


The "grandaddy of them all"—all City Daily Photo blogs, that is—has posted its final photo after ten years. Today Eric Tenin is retiring his groundbreaking Paris Daily Photo, which serves as an archive of inspiration to me and other bloggers. Thank you, Eric. I already miss you. 

Me and John atop Notre Dame Cathedral in May of 2006. We fell in love with Paris. About a month later I found Paris Daily Photo and I've been a fan ever since.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Hahamongna Alternatives

Hahamongna Watershed Park, named for the Native American village that once nestled there, is one of Pasadena's prettiest places. Now, it's NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory that nestles, framed by the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains.

Hahamongna is what it is: some open space, some utility poles, some water spreading basins owned by Pasadena Water and Power, some pathways and trails. It's big and beautiful. Partly wild, partly not. Pasadenish use it for recreation as well as utility, not to mention an important water source. It's also home to coyotes, bobcats, rabbits, snakes and the occasional mountain lion.

Hahamongna's borders touch Pasadena, Altadena and La Canada Flintridge. At its south end is the Devil's Gate Dam, which keeps runoff from the San Gabriels in check so it doesn't flood the Lower Arroyo. Los Angeles County Flood Control manages the dam.

And now the county has a plan to dig out the greenery you see in these photos, and leave the land bare.

Every kid learns in school that plants limit erosion, but despite this fact the County Board of Supervisors decided the "Big Dig" was a good plan to keep silt from building up against the Dam. Surely too much silt is not a good thing, but we don't all agree on the plan for removing it. The County says 425 trucks a day, 5 days a week, for 5 years, is a good idea. That's one truck almost every minute, rumbling through the residential neighborhoods of La Canada Flintridge, west Pasadena and west Altadena. The Arroyo Seco Foundation and a group of Pasadena citizens have offered less drastic plans, but these alternatives have been ignored.

You'll guess my opinion: a less drastic plan is a better way.

A group of concerned, active and influential citizens is raising money to sue the County. They need to pay for it.

You can contribute to this effort and get some immensely cool premiums, donated by people who care.

I think Hahamongna is well worth it. Thanks for listening (I did the voice-over on the linked video), and thanks for donating. Send in a buck! Or more! You don't have to be from Pasadena to contribute, but you become an honorary citizen in my heart.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Wilma's Last Sales Pitch Before Christmas

The reason her bed is soaking wet is she was deeply involved in her bone. The reason the floor in the foreground is scratched is she was deeply involved in a squirrel outside the window, and she thought it would make sense to try to get him.

I distracted her with fine reading material.

(As an aside, it is next to impossible to photograph her tail because it's always moving.)

But she seems calm now. Her tail is slowing down. She's—

She's literally a dog, not a literary dog.

(mostly) comic essays for the actor in your life

"Intelligent escapism" for the armchair adventurer in your life

Buy, read, enjoy, review! And thank you for another great year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Happy Chanukah

For your sleek and modern Hanukkah.

Monday, December 15, 2014


Last night, the neighborhood carolers serenaded the block with songs of the season. It's a sweet tradition. Every year I like to receive the carolers and offer them something. This year it was hot chocolate—and it was cold enough out to justify it.

The kids sat on our curb to drink their chocolate. The parents visited.

Not world class photography, but I love this photo.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

A Girl Friday for the Holidays

December is a good time to tell you about a new small business in the Dena: Girl Friday. I've mentioned them before because I visited their book club to talk about my novel, Camelot & Vine. But Girl Friday is much more than a book club. It's a Girl Friday, just like it says.

Here's the email I received from them yesterday:

The holidays are upon us and our elves are ready to go!

Top 10 Tasks Our Holiday Elves Enjoy:

1.  Getting your Christmas tree (it's fun!)
2.  Hanging holiday lights / decorating (so bright!)
3.  Gift shopping & wrapping (we love bows!)
4.  Baking goodies & treats (tasty!)
5.  Proving babysitters (parties are more fun without kids!)
6.  Cleaning your house (dirt is bad!)
7.  Holiday centerpieces & table-scapes (pretty pretty!)
8.  Creating care packages/gift baskets (gifts are good!)
9.  Shipping holiday cards & packages (long lines are no fun!)
10. Pet / house sitting while you are away (meow, woof etc!)

What do you need to make this holiday season a success? Our elves await you.

I don't know about you, but I need all these things. And I can attest to the baking and decorative talents of these women. They are so creative. And they're having a holiday party December 11th, where you can meet them and check out the goods. Click on the flyer to enlarge it for the details.

If you need the assistance of an elf or two, contact Cindi Knight, Girl Friday Personal Assistant Services, 626-221-5111.

I took the photo at Kidd's Jewelry Heist in South Pasadena, where I met the Girl Friday Book Club and where you want to do some shopping, now or any time.