Spring showers may bring flowers but they also bring illness such as the cold that befell your faithful correspondent last week. Hence, there was no Angeleno Social Diary because we've always been taught that the best guest is one who stays home when ill, especially in this age of pandemics.
Since this holiday weekend is devoted to things more spiritual than social, party planners seem to have taken the weekend off and there are fewer fetes on offer. But there's always something going on in this fast paced town devoted to irreligious hedonism. Check it out.
Wednesday, March 31, 2010
Thursday, April 1, 2010
Friday, April 2, 2010
Monday, April 5, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Collage by Iris Schneider. Click to enlarge
Left to right in each row, from top left: Leon Martell and Ashley Steed, Brenda Petrakos and Bill Ratner; Eric Lawson, Christine Blackburn and Baron Vaughn; Suzanne Averitt, Kerry Armstrong and Vaughn choosing names from The Moth hat, Colleen Wainright; Kahshanna Evans; Noel Mariano, Tom O'Connor and Brenda Varda.
For those of you who got shut out of tickets for Ira Glass at UCLA this weekend, take heart. Storytellers abound in Los Angeles. I recently was invited to explore some storytelling options around town and there are many. They range from serious nonfiction to Get Mortified, which I'm told consists of people reading from their actual junior high and high school diaries.
First I sat in on an evening at Son of Semele, a tiny theater almost hidden behind lots of street constuction on Beverly Boulevard just east of Commonwealth. Brenda Varda, the force behind Wordspace, an organization of writers and actors and teachers which promotes the written and spoken word, organized an evening of storytelling called "[Breaking the] Wordspace" that was enchanting, engrossing and entertaining.
Bill Ratner, an accomplished voiceover artist, was participating and brought me along. His daughter told me: "My mom says it's his midlife crisis." To my mind, this beats a Harley by a mile.
Varda is fascinated by the way words and ideas connect and has tried to promote the creative use of words since she founded her collective of writers and teachers in 2005. "I love doing events and finding different ways of seeing how words operate. That's my underlying mission," she says. She teaches writing on the university level as well as classes in creative and critical writing for ESL graduates.
In a recent undergraduate university level class she asked how many people had read a book in the past 6 months. One person raised their hand. "These are smart people," she said. But she acknowledges that the way we read has changed. As she embarks on a new venture — a community space in Atwater in which to promote the spoken word — she hopes she can continue to provide a way for storytellers to find their audience.
The evening of original stories included one by Colleen Wainright. who referred to a story on "This American Life" about people who bought items abandoned in storage units. Many in the audience chuckled with familiarity, remembering the tale that was at turns poignant and funny. "Well, that was my family. My mom lost her job and we lost everything, every shred of my childhood: my journals, my toys. All of it." She took us on a bittersweet journey that reminded me that many stories don't start with a character, but rather a person.
The Moth is a whole other kind of event. The Moth first began in a New York living room as friends who love to listen gathered to entertain each other by telling stories. Now a nationwide happening held monthly in public venues, The Moth has added another element to their evening readings: competition.
Besides storytelling evenings, there are now thrice-monthly StorySlams in Los Angeles and other cities, in which storytellers are judged by ad hoc groups of audience judges and rated, Olympics-style, after their performance. At the end of the evening, scores are tallied and the winner is announced. There are groundrules: all stories must be true. They must be told, not read. They must adhere to an announced theme. And there is a 5-minute time limit. When you throw your name in a hat for an opportunity to tell your story, you have no idea whether you will be chosen to perform that night or not.
A recent Storyslam winner, Christine Blackburn — competing on an evening whose theme was "Rules" — told a story about her days as an airline stewardess. It involved a series of improbable but probably possible situations that one might have encountered as a flight attendant: making weight, knowing uniform protocol, and how to deal with a 100-year old passenger who passed away in flight. (The answer to the last one is involved, but there is indeed an entry in the airline rulebook for this very circumstance. A friendly voice and an oxygen mask figure prominently).
After the show, Blackburn talked about telling stories. "No matter who you are, or where you are," she said, "everyone has a story." Check The Moth website and come to listen, or to weave your own special tale. But beware: maybe because we've become so used to electronic contact, something about these shared human experiences will resonate and it may well become addictive.
It is not likely that most people (except for diehard Dodgers fans) were paying attention to the movements of Dodgers minor league outfielder Jamie Hoffmann.
Hoffmann, who played briefly for the Dodgers last year, found himself in spring training for the Yankees through the arcane mechanism of something known as the Rule 5 draft. (If you already know what it is, I won't define it again. If you are truly curious to learn what it is, you can read about it here.)
The Yankees had to keep Hoffmann on their 25-man roster or offer him back to the team that owned his rights previously, i.e., the Dodgers. And, today, the Yankees decided to send Hoffmann back to Los Angeles.
However, Hoffmann was apparently not known well enough to the Los Angeles Times. Kevin Baxter's Fabulous Forum post referred to the return of Jamie Hoffman. (Screen grab below in case it got fixed by the time you read this.)
The Times wasn't the only offender. The Dodgers own website actually had the name spelled incorrectly for several hours of the day, although it has been fixed now. However, I saved a screen capture of the typo earlier in the day. (Although it came out a bit small.)
Typos like this are honest mistakes, although if you have a surname like mine (see above if you forgotten), it is all too common. Those of us with German names often get cheated out of our second n.
The best I can figure the reasons for this are:
As far as I know, the first Timmermanns that came to the United States dragged their silent n across the Atlantic with them in the 1830s, settling in Illinois, where they were free to practice their own religion, start their own farms, and revel in their extra consonants.
The -manns of the United States are starting to become more prominent. On the left, there is MSNBC commentator Keith Olbermann. On the right, there is Minnesota Representative Michele Bachmann. That is likely the end of the similarities between those two people.
The inspiration for the headline to this post is Jacques Offenbach's opera Les Contes d'Hoffmann (The Tales of Hoffmann). The opera is based on short stories by a German writer E.T.A. Hoffmann.
Fortunately, opera fans are more familiar with German. And they would never misspell the name of the work. Would they?
I suppose I shall press on with my quixotic, or perhaps simply pointless, quest to get people to spell my surname correctly. Or maybe I'll just tell people to call me Bob.
A little over 20 years ago, Loyola Marymount University's Gersten Pavilion was the scene of one of Southern California's most tragic events in sports. LMU star forward Hank Gathers, playing against Portland in his team's first game of the West Coast Conference Tournament, collapsed and died of heart failure as a result of hypertropic cardiomyopathy.
Conference officials canceled the tournament and sent the Lions to the NCAA Tournament. There, led by Gathers' friend and high school teammate from Philadelphia, Bo Kimble, LMU improbably advanced all the way to the West Regional Final, losing to eventual champion UNLV, knocking off defending champion Michigan along the way.
LMU, under the guidance of former Lakers coach Paul Westhead, played a somewhat revolutionary run and gun style of basketball, throwing up three-point shots combined with a full court press. The Lions would outscore most NBA teams, although they would also give up their fare share. On January 31, 1989, LMU and U.S. International University set a Division I record for scoring in a 181-150 win for the Lions. (My brother Tom, who was covering the game for the Daily News at the time, has told me that the final score may have been different as the official scorers seemed to fall behind the action in the second half.)
After Gathers death, Gathers' family filed suit against LMU and Gathers' doctors. Westhead left LMU after the season to return to the NBA. Loyola Marymount retreated into basketball obscurity.
In the 20 seasons since LMU last made it to the NCAA Tournament, the Lions have had only four winning seasons. They have had three season where they won just seven games, and in the 1999-2000 season, the Lions won just two.
Last season, Bill Bayno took over as coach, but soon had to step down for health reasons. Assistant Max Good took over and the LMU finished the year 3-28.
Good was given the job fulltime and managed to coax a team with no seniors and only three juniors to an 18-14 season. LMU beat USC and Notre Dame on the road. On February 18, the Lions upset the #9 team in the nation, Gonzaga, at home. It was the first win for LMU over a nationally ranked team since they had defeated Alabama in the NCAA Tournament in 1990.
While the improvement was not good enough to deliver a conference championship (that went to St. Mary's) or an NCAA Tournament berth (which Gonzaga also earned), the Lions did manage to get a bid into one of the three other postseason tournaments.
LMU was not quite good enough for the NIT, which has history on its side, or the College Basketball Invitational, which is run by the powerful Gazelle Group who run nearly all of the preseason tournaments in college basketball. Instead, LMU found itself in the rather unfortunately named Collegeinsider.com Tournament, aka the CIT.
The CIT invites 16 teams and matches them up as best they can to get people to show up. (Although Harvard at Appalachian State may not be what they had in mind.) LMU paid the organizers of the CIT a sum of $31,500 to get the right to be the home team for its opening game against Pacific.
However, with short notice, LMU drew only 1,541 fans for the game. And, if you arrived just before tipoff (as I did), you could still buy a ticket that put you two rows off the court. The free parking at the Westchester campus was pretty nice.
Pacific, which tied with UC Santa Barbara for first in the Big West Conference, was a little too strong inside for LMU. Pacific led by 17 at halftime, saw the Lions cut the lead to three, but then pulled away for an 86-76 win. Pacific shot 60% from the field for the game.
Since all the stars of this year's LMU team, such as forward Drew Viney and guard Vernon Teel, the Lions could try to make a claim for the title of "Best Team in the West Coast Conference That Isn't Gonzaga."
Whatever happens in the future, the 1990 season is still going to overshadow anything that happens at LMU. Fans can buy Hank Gathers jerseys at a concession stand inside Gersten Pavilion. A biography of Gathers, Heart of a Lion by Kyle Kiederling, is also available for sale.
On March 23, an ESPN "30 for 30" documentary on the 1989-90 team called "Guro of Go" will have a showing at Gersten Pavilion. The documentary will air nationally on ABC on April 3 at 1 pm.
The Hank Gathers story will keep being retold, mostly because of its tragic aspects. The image of a young athlete dying in front of people is hard to erase. Twenty years is still not enough time. But, if the Lions keep on improving, there may be a slightly happier story in the near future for Loyola Marymount.
It's officially spring on March 20th, date of the vernal equinox, and people are eager to celebrate the season's rampant fertility. Thus, it's no surprise to see so many scheduled events devoted to the welfare of children, animals and the planet. Today's also St. Patrick Day so everyone's going Green in some capacity. On Friday, Dionne Warwick will perform before a heavy-hitting Industry crowd at "A Stellar Night 2010" gala presented by the Starlight Children's Foundation. The Humane Society honors Tippi Hedren at its Genesis Awards ceremony on Saturday. And don't miss Dr. Paul Apodaca lecture on Archaeoastronomy at the Museum of the American Indian on Saturday afternoon.
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
Thursday, March 18, 2010
Friday, March 19, 2010
Saturday, March 20, 2010
Sunday, March 21, 2010
Monday, March 22, 2010
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
If one word had to be picked to sum up the 2009-10 season in Pac-10 men's basketball, it might not be a word. It would likely be more of a groan or a sigh. It might be the sound you make when your lunch options are an egg salad sandwich out of a vending machine or an old container of Cup Noodles. The conference, which has won the championship 15 times (11 of them by UCLA), has not had a year to remember.
No team is nationally ranked. College basketball prognosticators think that the conference may get only one or two teams into the NCAA tournament. The regular season champ, Cal, matched the record low for wins by the conference champ (since the Pac-10 expanded to its current size) with 13. Washington State had the most wins in conference history for a last place team with 6.
Whenever a Pac-10 team made an appearance on national TV against a nonconference opponent, a loss was the usual result. UCLA lost brutal games on national TV to the likes of Cal State Fullerton, Portland, and Mississippi State.
The conference has been holding its annual postseason tournament at Staples Center since 2002. And judging by the number of phone calls I got at home begging me to buy tickets, the Pac-10 was worried about people not showing up to watch the games this year.
Further complicating matters this year, defending tournament champion USC declared itself ineligible for postseason play in the wake of the O.J. Mayo recruiting scandal. The concession stands at Staples Center were not selling any USC-branded tournament souvenirs.
So, the Pac-10 tournament this year had just nine teams. The tournament, which normally opens on a Wednesday night with a doubleheader featuring the bottom four teams of the tournament, had just a single game between the #8 and #9 teams in the conference: Oregon and Washington State. The winner would get to face Cal on Thursday.
Over the past few years, I've developed a habit of attending quite a few games at Staples Center. In 2007, I made it to all nine games. This year, because of work and personal obligations, I could make it to just one game, the Wednesday night opening round.
A game matching up a 15-15 squad whose coach is expected to be fired (Oregon's Ernie Kent) against a 16-14 team that lost 9 of its last 11 games does not exactly spark a big rush to the box office for tickets.
I got a ticket from a scalper outside Staples at a 50% discount and likely could have held out for even less if I had the slightest bit of haggling talent. The ticket put me in the lower bowl of Staples about 15 rows up. For a Lakers game, that same seat would likely fetch $300-$1000 depending upon the opponent.
To their credit, Oregon and Washington State played an entertaining game, with the Ducks winning in overtime 82-80 on a pair of free throws by senior guard Tajuan Porter. The crowd, or perhaps more accurately, the gathering, of 6,090 people (so the Pac-10 claims) got their money's worth. Keep in mind that a lot of us did not pay much to get in.
On Thursday the tournament has its marathon day of four games. It starts at 12:10 pm with #5 UCLA playing #4 Arizona. Cal plays Oregon around 2:40 pm. #2 Arizona State plays #7 Stanford at 6 pm and the day of basketball finishes with a game starting around 8:40 pm between #3 Washington and #6 Oregon State.
I've gone to all four games in one day a couple times. It takes stamina. It also takes a lot of cash to feed yourself at Staples Center, not to mention that you have to buy two tickets to see all the games. And by the time the fourth game starts, you start to lose track of who's playing. That's all part of the excitement! Or, perhaps, it is just the sign of needing to stop sitting in one place for 12 hours watching basketball games.
Tickets for Thursday's games should be easy to come by as Staples Center staff were handing out discount coupons. Tickets for Friday's semifinals (a doubleheader starting at 6 pm) and the Saturday final (at 3 pm) are available. With USC not participating and UCLA (a 13-17 squad) likely to be eliminated early, the tournament may be a tough sell for local fans.
Nevertheless, the Pac-10 has shown no indication in wanting to move its men's tournament from Staples Center. Logistically, Los Angeles is the easiest city for all the schools to travel to, as well as find hotel rooms.
The women's tournament starts on Thursday at the Galen Center at USC. All ten schools will be playing in that one, with the championship game scheduled for Sunday. Stanford won the regular season title with UCLA and USC in second and third place.
As for the NCAA Tournament starting next week, local college basketball fans may have to look fairly far away to find a team with a local rooting interest. UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State are the closest schools to Los Angeles with a realistic chance of getting into the NCAA Tournament.
Although the Pac-10 has been down this season, the conference will likely improve next year. Why? Well, it would be hard for it to be much worse than it was this year. It would take just one good year of recruiting for the Pac-10 to regain its reputation as one of the top basketball conferences in the country.
* Thursday update 11:30 pm UCLA extended its season for at least one more game after beating Arizona 75-69. The Bruins will face first place Cal Friday night at 6:20 pm. The winner of that game will face either seventh place Stanford or third place Washington on Saturday.
In the Big West tournament at the Anaheim Convention Center, first place UC Santa Barbara will play fifth place UC Davis and second place Pacific will take on Long Beach State.
In the Pac-10 women's tournament at Galen Center, USC will play Oregon at 5 pm. UCLA will play Oregon State afterwards. Those will be quarterfinal games.
** Friday updateCal put an end to a disappointing season for UCLA with an 85-72 win in the first semifinal game of the night at Staples Center. Senior Michael Roll finished his UCLA career with a personal best of 27 points. The Bruins finished their season 14-18. Cal will play Washington for the conference championship Saturday at 3 pm.
The Bruins, depending upon how you count a decade starts and ends, had one with three Final Four appearances and three losing seasons. Take heart, UCLA fans, the same fate befell USF in the 1950s
In the Pac-10 women's tournament, there will be a pair of rivalry games in the semifinals at Galen Center. First place Stanford plays fourth place Cal at 2:30 pm and then second place UCLA plays third place USC around 5 pm.
The Big West Conference will produce a Southern California team for the NCAA men's tournament. UC Santa Barbara, the regular season champ, will play third place Long Beach State at 9 pm Saturday at the Anaheim Convention Center for an automatic spot in the tournament.
L.A. socialites should prepare themselves for both laughter and tears at upcoming events around the Southland. Comedian Kathy Griffin will be feted at the Human Rights Campaign Gala and she will have a few choice words to share, no doubt. Senator Barbara Boxer is also scheduled to speak. There's the tears portion of the evening. Speaking of politics, the Los Angeles City Historical Society focuses on the our city's history of corruption during this year's Marie Northrop Lecture Series. James Ingram will discuss the administration of George E. Cryer, L.A.'s mayor during the twenties. Still seeking a mood enhancer? Drew Carey MC's "The Right to Laugh" fundraiser for the Alliance for Children's Rights on Monday, March 15th.
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Friday, March 12, 2010
Sunday, March 14, 2010
Monday, March 15, 2010
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
Mike Dunleavy has been fired as Clippers GM just a few weeks after he "voluntarily" stepped down as coach. The Clippers issued an unusually pointed press release, writing:
"The team has simply not made sufficient progress during Dunleavy's seven-year tenure," the statement said. "The Clippers want to win now. This transition, in conjunction with a full commitment to dedicate unlimited resources, is designed to accomplish that objective."
The timing of this is interesting, as it seems the Clippers just wanted Dunleavy to get the team through the trade deadline, when they made several cap clearing trades. But regardless, it was fairly obvious that Dunleavy wouldn't last in this position for long. Kim Hughes wasn't a miracle worker as a head coach, and Dunleavy would have been in an awkward position as a GM making $5.5 million and needing to hire a coach while at odds with his owner. Dunleavy's strained relationship with Donald Sterling has been well-publicized.
I've said this before and I'll say it again: Mike Dunleavy is a good basketball coach. He's had some success in the past, and the Clippers played well at times in his tenure. But aside from an annual slew of injuries, Dunleavy's message seemed to wear thin on his players and his style of play didn't suit his personnel.
I would argue that Dunleavy has left the Clippers in much better shape than when he inherited the team seven years ago. They have an excellent nucleus with Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, Baron Davis, and Chris Kaman, and they have a ton of cap space to add to it next season.
So what's next for the Clippers? I'll get the fun rumors out of the way first. According to several reports, Charlotte Bobcats head coach Larry Brown contacted Donald Sterling about becoming the team's head coach and GM. Brown owns a home in Malibu, his wife reportedly would love to return to LA, and he gave the Clippers their best two-year run in franchise history back in 1992-93. Brown's LA ties also include a short stint at UCLA, when he coached the Bruins to the NCAA National Title Game back in 1980. He's famous for frequently changing jobs, and if he suddenly left Charlotte, then no one would really be surprised.
To add more fun to the rumor, Lebron James has said in the past that he would love to play for Larry Brown. The Clippers have enough cap space to sign Lebron, but really they could entice any elite free agent by giving him the opportunity to recommend a coach.
Still, all of this is a bit far-fetched. Brown's overtures were reportedly made when it was believed that George Postolos would buy the Bobcats and hire a new coach. Instead, Michael Jordan wound up taking complete control of the team, and he had initially brought in Brown based on their University of North Carolina connection. Jordan has been famous for being an absentee executive in Charlotte, and Brown can't be too happy with "His Airness'" management style. But Brown has also said that he came to Charlotte for Jordan, and seems unlikely to abandon him. Although, you never really know with Larry Brown.
Personally, if I was running the Clippers, then I would go for a different type of executive altogether. There are several NBA GMs who have had success by incorporating statistical and computer analysis into their player evaluations. Daryl Morey of Houston and Sam Presti of Oklahoma City are just two of these "Money-basketball" GMs. Making a PR statement with a big name is nice, but hiring a smart, savvy, and innovative general manager might be what the Clippers need to differentiate themselves from the Lakers and other teams in the NBA. I'd recommend the Clippers bring in such an executive... someone who looks at the game differently from most NBA executives and can quietly build a deep roster of talented and efficient players. It's fun to think about the Clippers getting Lebron James or Dwayne Wade, but it's also excessively hopeful. They just can't count on it, and they really need a thorough alternate plan.
The Clippers should then let their new smart GM hire a head coach whom he can work with. It's easy to hire a retread head coach who has bounced around to a few different teams. But there's nothing wrong with an unknown like Scott Brooks who is a Coach of the Year candidate in Oklahoma City.
I know Clippers fans are tired of losing, and they probably want to see an overt commitment to winning by having the team go out and hire the biggest name possible. But the problem with that strategy is that the Clippers have such a horrible history that they will seldom be anyone's first choice. They'd be well-advised to try a different approach and look to innovative statistical methods to find the right mix of players who can take them to the next level.
Oh, and for an added boost, I'd consider hiring Bill Simmons as an Assistant GM, both for the publicity and to see if he's good as he says he is. He does have a great basketball aptitude, but he could probably use some management experience. I also think the Clippers should change their logo, colors, and uniforms, but that's a topic for another day.
Yes, it is finally Oscar Week. But there's plenty of other promising events around town. Many of these events feature strange bedfellows. Christopher Hitchens shares views on the "varieties of anti-semitism" at the Daniel Pearl Memorial lecture at UCLA while the US-Ireland Alliance honors J.J. Abrams at its Ireland on Film event later in the week. Meanwhile, the free spirits of Film Independent have moved from their usual seaside location in Santa Monica to hold the 2010 Independent Spirit Awards downtown at L.A. Live.
Wednesday, March 3, 3010
Thursday, March 4, 2010
Friday, March 5, 2010
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Monday, March 8, 2010