Friday, October 15, 2010

Priorities - Do We Have It Wrong?

I don't know what's wrong with this country (rhetorical).

In my opinion, people have totally lost sight of what's important.  A day off here and there for special events should be mandatory, not frowned upon.  Life should be a collection of experiences.  

I have much more respect for the wacky "Mame Dennis" relative than the convention followers.  This goes both for missing Work or School.

Now before I begin, I'm not talking about going all 'Ferris Bueller' (if that reference doesn't mean anything to you, go rent the movie).  I'm talking about events that come to town, opportunities that might mean missing a day of work or pulling a kid from school.

For the past decade, I worked for a fun company that very few people get to work for.  We'd have special events that we can invite people to.  These would be considered once-in-a-lifetime type things that most people wouldn't get to do or attend (OK so they usually were twice annually, but that's not my point).  Sometimes, these would mean missing a day of school if you were a kid.  These are special events that makes one's life richer in the big scheme. To NOT miss school for one day is wrong.

But OMG, the drama that could follow these requests totally blew my mind.  School is something like 180 days per year.  Missing a few of them for a "life experience" should not be a crime, but should be encouraged by the schools.  I mean, really... how much stuff is a kid going to miss in one day?  

Really?  When did our school systems suddenly get so good that the amount of knowledge gained in one day was so invaluable?

Life first.  Routine second.  Looking back on one's life, it will be the special events most likely remembered, not that Tuesday in November that you made sure you didn't miss school. 

I think I'd prefer that my kids rack up some absentee days to live life. 

[Disclaimer: No, I am not yet a parent, but I suspect my feelings on this issue will not change all that much... of course if my kid's grades suck, then the incentive to bring them up is so we can skip school from time to time.]

Saturday, October 9, 2010

A Life Remembered - John Lennon

It was nearly 30 years ago today... Sgt. Pepper asked the band not to play, but to observe a moment of silence.

John Lennon had been murdered.  His voice forever silenced.

While the details of that tragic night need not be restated here, I wanted to recall my still vivid memories of that evening.

I was in the U.S. Navy, about a month out of Boot Camp and just completed my Basic Electricity and Electronics courses in Orlando, Florida.  I was out with some friends, celebrating and drinking at the club on base (I was under-21, but drinking alcohol was - and still is - legal on base for all military personnel).

Around 11PM, I stumbled back to my barracks.  In the morning I was shipping out to Naval Station Great Lakes outside of Chicago to continue my schooling.  I turned on the radio to listen to the news (I've been listening to all-talk/news radio since I was little boy as an aid in sleeping).

I staggered into the bathroom on the left, flipped on the light and began to pee.  Over the radio I heard the breaking news that John Lennon has been shot and that he was being rushed to the hospital.  In my current state, I only half heard it and only a quarter comprehended it.

After undressing, I climbed up into my top bunk a few minutes later.  The breaking news was now updated to report that John Lennon had died.  I quietly cried myself to sleep.

This entire incident only took about 15 minutes.  

The next morning when I awoke, my nightmares had been confirmed: John Lennon was dead.  It touched me very deeply as this was the first of MY icons to die.  While Elvis had died a few years early, he belonged to a different generation, but John was mine.

As I sit here now 30 years later, on what would have been his 70th Birthday - listening, enjoying and pondering his music (as I will again in two months ago on the anniversary of that tragic and senseless day), I want to again remember his legacy and his words.  While he was considered by some to be a radical, he was poet who more than anything else, proffered peace and love.

I can think of no better final thought than to remind you all of the lyrics to "Imagine":

Imagine there's no heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today...

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world...

You may say I'm a dreamer
But I'm not the only one
I hope someday you'll join us
And the world will live as one

Saturday, September 25, 2010

"How To Bake An Apple Pie" (or, "How To Make What Looks Like A Simple Baked Good Into A Two-Hour Plus Nightmare Project With An End Result That Is... At Least Edible")

This is the Pie that inspired me.
"Hey, you know what would be fun.  I just saw this great looking recipe in a newsletter for an Apple Pie.  It looks pretty easy and since I have a dinner party tomorrow, how cool would it be to bake this pie from scratch!  The newsletter even has the recipe for the dough, which totally looks doable."

I wished someone had been around when I uttered those words so they could tie me up, lock me in my room and keep me there until the dinner party.  Let me start by saying, I love to cook.  Whipping up dinners with stuff in the fridge and the cabinet, tapping into all of the things I've seen on "Iron Chef" and "Top Chef" and "Good Eats" and even "Hell's Kitchen" over the years.  I'm a pretty good cook.

Well let me tell you... 'cooking' and 'baking' are two completely different animals.  It's probably similar to the difference between removing a tooth and removing a drain clog!  In cooking, you add what you want, taste, adjust, add more, taste, adjust... ultimately, enjoy.

In baking, you measure (did they mean this line or that line... do I pack or leave loose... what does 'by weight not volume' mean!  Isn't 8 oz in a measuring cup simply 8 oz?), you pray, you measure more, pray more, mix some (but not don't 'overwork it'), you pray again, you follow the recipe to the nth degree - but if it's so technical, why is every friggin' recipe is sooo different!

OK - let me slow down and begin at the beginning...

Shopping:  I need Apples, a Lemon, and a Pie Tin.  Everything else I have.  The recipe called for Macintosh Apples.  My market doesn't carry these, so I use my iPhone to search for 'Apple Pie Apples' (smart, huh!).  I find that the Braeburns I like are listed as suitable for Pies, so I'm golden.  As for the Lemon, it's needed for some Grated Rind.  I look for some 'packaged' rind thinking maybe it could be a good add-in for other recipes down the line.  I find some Lemon Omani (used in Middle Eastern cooking).  It is the dried rind of the Black Lemon, but nothing seems to indicate it might be good for baking or using as a substitute.  With this idea a no-go, I do waht I should have done 15 minutes ago and grab a Lemon with nice looking peel.  I find a Pie Tin and head home.

Preparation:  I clean (read: scrub and sterilize) my countertop (as I may have to roll the dough out on it later) and arrange my ingredients, including a few additions I might like to add (the Chef in me): Cocoa Powder, Ginger, Nutmeg, Vanilla.

The Dough: I mix my Flour(s) together, but I (of course) want to use Wheat Flour instead of White.  I google some info and decide to use a 50/50 blend.  I use my metal strainer as a makeshift Sifter and after removing the course Wheat Bran bits, I have a nice silky flour.

So far, so good.  I'm having fun.  In addition to some Salt (called for by the recipe), I sneak in 1/2 tsp of Cinnamon, 1/4 tsp Nutmeg, 1 tsp Vanilla and 3/4 tsp Cocoa.  Why?  Because I usually find pie crusts boring and I wanted to add a bit of flavor - I forgo the Ginger, but decide to sprinkle some into the Apples later.  

I grate the Lemon Zest into the flour mixture, cube up the 2 tbs of Butter (by hand), wisk the Egg Yolks with the Ice Water and then incorporate.  I then begin to work the dough into a ball - which never happens... it's crumbly.  I google for help and find similar recipes with as much as 2 sticks of butter!  So to bring my dough together, I begin to add additional tablespoons of butter one at a time... one more... two more... feeling better.

Rolling the Dough: I take my ball of dough, lay it between two sheets of wax paper and begin to roll it out.  The edges are all cracked and crumbly.  This is not working.  OK... more butter (or run out and buy a crust).  NO - more butter.  Two more tablespoons go in (bringing what should have been 2 tbs to a total of 6 tbs).  Now the ball comes together and and I am able to roll it out and get it into the pie tin.  It ain't pretty, but 'feels' alright to me (the oh-so-novice Baker).

I assume the dark coloring is from a combination of the Wheat Flour and the Cocoa Powder.  On to the Filling!

Apples:  This should be easy!  Core and slice up the Apples and lay them in the crust.  Hey, it will be even easier as I have a new Peeler/Corer that I got for Christmas.  I used one at my Sister's for Thanksgiving to peel Apples and it worked pretty good.  I pull mine out and realize I've not used it yet, so wash it, assemble it and try to 'calibrate' it.  The first peels are taking two much apple meat with them, so more adjustments... most apples go halfway through be they stop spinning and the corer just continues through without turning the apples... and they begin 'browning' in the air, so I have to get a bowl of Lemon Juice to lay them in.  Now I have to alternate between Peeler/Corer and Hand Finishing the ones that only half core.  Now my slices are odd looking and not looking pretty... but they'll be IN the pie so no one will see them.  OK - Apples are finally laid out in their crusty tomb... er, their delicious, crusty bed.

Top Shell:  CRAP!  I forgot to save some of the dough for a top shell!  Wait... I think I saw a recipe that used a Crumble on top.  

Crumble Topping:  I find the recipe on Google (natch) and make a Crumble Topping with Flour, Oats, Brown Sugar, Cinnamon and Butter.  This will be fun and different.

Baking:  OK, now that I've gotten this far, the worst should be over.  I set the oven for 400° and prepare to pop it in.  Now how long does it bake for?  Oh, I see... 35 minutes at 400° by one recipe (the one that needed three times the butter!) and 375° for 60 minutes according the recipe with the Crumble topping.  OK, so I'll bake for 35 at 375° then check it... and when I do, it looks the same as when I put it in!  

Let's leave it in for another 15 minutes and google "How Do You Know When An Apple Pie Is Done" - the answer: when the crust is golden brown.  Damn - my crust started out brown due to my Cocoa and Wheat Flour additions.  In either event, this site mentions 45 minutes to an hour for the golden crust so I think I'm still on the right track.

After an hour, the pie still looks no different, but I am nervous to leave it in much longer so out it comes.  I insert a knife and the Crumble topping seems 'toasted' and the Apple insides seem soft-ish.  Apple-y smelling steam rises from my creation, so I'm calling it 'done'.  The test will be at the Dinner Party tomorrow night.  "Movie Crew" (my Dinner Party peeps tomorrow) - I did my best!

So, did I successfully bake a pie from scratch?  Did my additions, changes, quick thinkings and last minute adjustments throughout actually pay off into an edible (do I dare hope for delicious?) dessert?  

[Final Result: OK - so I taste-tested it early.  Twice as many apples as I used are needed, but what's there is tasty.  The Butter in the Crumble topping did a nice job melting down into the apples.  The Crust (with 3x the "called-for" butter) is still a bit dry and bland for me - there has to be a way (other than using graham crackers) to add FLAVOR into a crust.  Maybe adding flavor extracts and some sort of sweetener (other than sugar) that will allow the crust to retain it's flakiness, but in a more palatable manner.]

Moral:  Baking is NOT the same as Cooking.  Baking requires precision and is more of an exact science.  Cooking is relaxing and creative in comparison.  I'll stick to Cooking.

Sunday, August 29, 2010


As I watched a movie earlier today (the movie matters not, but it was RKO's 1936 Mary of Scotland with Katherine Hepburn and Frederic March - a strange, over-acted, pondering thing directed by the legendary John Ford)... where was I... 

Oh, yes... as I watched a movie earlier today, I noticed a candle burning center screen.  As the flame flickered, I watched the smoke slowly rise, billow and curl (that's how good the movie was!).  

As the actors came and went on screen, it occurred to me that they could repeatedly perform this scene over and over again... nothing unique about their actions; but that candle, that singular element burning unbeknownst to them on the table - that was unique.  Its actions were singular.  They were one-of-a-kind, never to be repeated.  It was the most alive and real thing on that screen.

We are always being told how wonderful we are.  How special,  how unique.  But are we?  

As I sit in my apartment, I realize that if I wasn't sitting on this couch in this apartment watching my TV and typing on my MacBook... someone else would be in this apartment.  My MacBook would have been sold to someone else and be elsewhere having other things typed on it.  My TV (which I won in a sweepstakes from "Men's Health" magazine back in 2004) would be drawing electricity from elsewhere as well, with someone else's eyes peering at it.  My burgundy couch from (the now defunct) Wikes Furniture would be in some other room somewhere else, too.

The point is, they would all still 'be' - still would have all been manufactured, shelved and sold.  Nothing unique in their existence.  Nothing as singular as that flickering candle from 1936.

Or am I wrong?  While their existence is not in any sense unique, their existence together in this one place is unique.  Is singular.  They were all brought together by me.  I am the one constant in their life and I am the one variable that, had I been changed out for another, would have resulted in a completely different end result.

The someone else who won the Sharp Aquos from "Men's Health" would most likely NOT be the same person who put the burgundy pull out couch across from it in this North Hollywood apartment.  The odds are astronomical.

The only thing that overcame those astronomical odds was me.  My existence.  My uniqueness.

I therefore must be like that Hollywood candle from over-seven decades ago.  While the scenario around me continues unaware of my place in the scene, I am there.  Center stage.  Burning brightly.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Writings from my Past

Starting tomorrow... a project that is near and dear to my heart, will finally see the light of day. The Larry Chronicles - a trilogy with a long and storied past, will be published online - one chapter per week - until the entire work is online.

What began as a 4th Grade creative writing project and bookbinding exercise back in 1973 (probably for Mrs. Dooling at Everett A. McDonald Comprehensive Elementary School - they made us memorize that! - in Warminster, Pennsylvania), grew into a trilogy. A fantasy tale with pop-culture references. Of course, leaving those 70s/80s pop-culture references in tact today, make them retro and therefore, once again relevant.

Rediscovered in the mid-80s (sadly ending mid-sentence and mid-climax without a single clue where it was heading), it was fully revised, completed, but again set aside. Dusted off a few years after I arrived in Los Angeles, it went through another complete revision in 1996... before once again neglect took hold and it was left untouched for another 15 years.

While dining with a close friend tonight (and she knows who she is), the idea to self-publish finally took hold. I therefore will endeavor to post it exactly as it was completed in 1996, but you never know... 35 years after it was originally written, it may once again get a tweak or two... or a thousand.

Oh, and The Larry Chronicles will be posted in their own blog location at - but as always, I'll announce each Chapter's addition on my Facebook page or you can subscribe above to 'Follow' the tale as it unfurls.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

There May Have Been Signs...

Lately I’ve found myself with a lot of free time on my hands. And it’s during this time that I find myself living within my head more than I should.

It is after all, not unlike the repository at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. It’s full of memories and closed chapters: Boy Scouts, Navy, familial dysfunction, playing the role of Paralegal at work, Animation Production, married years, single years, straight years, gay years… all chapters that make up the crazy novel of one person’s life.

Recently while in the dusty attic of my mind, I recalled my little suitcase record player. My world was constantly being expanded by the flat grooved bits of vinyl that spun around the little metal stub in the middle. And I begin to realize that hints of what was to come were – in retrospect – quite possibly evident from the very early on. Did the music shape the man I became or was the man that got buried deep inside for decades, simply finding the music that made his true soul dance?

Oh sure, the early experiences were musically provided by my Mother, who listened mostly to Classical. She supplied me with all the Disney tunes I could absorb. But what I craved more was hidden behind a sliding door in old cabinet of hers. With those doors, I found my own way.

Initially it was the album covers that sparked my interest. An old man in a cloud, dangling two people on puppet strings (the London Cast of My Fair Lady) – I listened and heard the voice of Mary Poppins and was hooked!

There was a violinist sitting on top of a house (Fiddler on the Roof) and a sketch of a bandleader who sang about “76 Trombones” (The Music Man). Well, my Mom took notice of this attraction (as I was always borrowing her albums). She then introduced me to Danny Kaye (as Hans Christian Andersen), Nat “King” Cole, Kiss Me, Kate and Streisand. I ate it up.

Soon, I had my own albums (in time, the vinyl collection would swell to about 2000). My Mom also began taking me to see things films like Oliver! and the cast album soon followed. In time, I started performing my favorites.

Oh, how my younger brother and sister loved those shows I’d put on for them… lip-syncing each and every song and performing each album in their entirety. And I did this for them often. Trust me, they’ve not forgotten. Thoughts of Jesus Christ Superstar still give my sister the shivers.

A few years later, my own record store wanderings found me perusing the Soundtrack/Cast Album section, as was my wont, and I came across this black and red and white album cover that stopped me in my tracks. Actually I came across two albums around this time, one was Patti Smith’s Easter with her hairy armpit on the cover. I was so grossed out – that might have shaped something, too!

But the album I’m specifically referring to had: an attractive nerd kissing a pretty girl; what looked like the Bride of Frankenstein; a bald guy with piercing eyes and stringy hair, peering around this guy/girl (?) with red lipstick. On the back, someone was grabbing the pretty girl’s breasts, a muscle guy was in a Speedo… what was all this about? With the promise of “16 Great Songs” and one of them being sung by Meat Loaf (who I recently liked from his “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad”), I gave it shot.

OMG… to quote the lyrics, “…my mind has been expanded.” This was, of course, the soundtrack to The Rocky Horror Picture Show and while it would still be a few years before I encountered that actual movie – another mind-altering, game-changing experience – my perceptions were becoming clearer. Other early favorites were the glam rockers, very androgynous boys that intrigued me. Freddie Mercury oozed sexuality that I found surprisingly attractive.

I vividly remember one People magazine cover (September 6, 1976) with this not-unhandsome woman? Or was it man? The attraction was so strong, I couldn’t take my eyes off it. I remember it at the checkout stand and I kept stealing glances at it hoping no one would see me. The caption said David Bowie. I didn’t care, I was attracted to him (I’d already loved his track “Space Oddity”).

So long ago. And while I didn’t actually ‘come out’ until much later on, musically I may have been out at an early age. I’m not saying that every little boy who likes Musicals is gay, for me I think these were glimpses into the real me that was struggling to break free.

I still cherish these Albums (on my iPod now). Hearing these songs still make me smile with more fondness than other songs do. The kid inside is quite pleased.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

When You Are Dealing With Troubles And Concerns...

There are times when we all need to a take a moment for ourselves. Life's pressures weigh on us, bog us down, make us feel heavy and troubled. When you find yourself in this predicament, ponder the following:

"Sit beside the breakfast table.
Think about your troubles.
Pour yourself a cup of tea,
And think about the bubbles.
You can take your teardrops and drop 'em in a teacup.
Take 'em down to the riverside,
And throw 'em over the side
To be swept up by a current
And taken to the ocean
To be eaten by some fishes,
Who were eaten by some fishes
And swallowed by a whale,
Who grew so old,
He decomposed...

He died and left his body
To the bottom of the ocean.
Now everybody knows that when a body decomposes
The basic elements are given back to the ocean,
And sea does what it oughta:
Consume the salty water (not too good for drinkin'),
'Cause it tastes just like a teardrop (so you run it through a filter),
And it comes out of the faucet (when it pours into the teapot),
Which is just about to bubble.
Now think about your troubles..."

Now you can listen to this great Harry Nilsson song by clicking here - and as you do listen: close your eyes... breathe... relax... and let your troubles slip away into your teacup.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Review - Meat Loaf "Hang Cool Teddy Bear" Tour 2010

In the year 2010 - can a 62-year old rocker continue to delight fans both young and old with magnum opuses (opi?) from decades gone by, wordy Jim Steinman and Steinman-esque lyrics that allow not a moment for breath, and deliver a performance worthy of his heritage?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Meat Loaf. The ubiquitous 70s rocker whose debut album, Bat Out Of Hell is still one of the best selling albums of all time (currently in fifth place worldwide at 43 million), is currently touring in support of his latest album, the Rob Cavallo produced, Hang Cool Teddy Bear. If Rob's name is familiar, think Green Day's American Idiot for starters. We're talking Rock Concert in the finest tradition: light show, video screen, pyrotechnics, large inflatables... this show did not miss a beat.

Meat (or Mr. Loaf if you prefer) opened the show simply by appearing on stage to a standing ovation and then just milked it for a few minutes by walking from one side of the stage to the other, looking out upon the audience that had assembled in the Universal City Gibson Amphitheatre. Once the music began, the opening surprise was "Hot Patootie, Bless My Soul" from The Rocky Horror Picture Show with accompanying film footage on the big LED screen behind the stage.

While new tracks were expected during the course of the evening, they were kept to a minimum and performed with enough video and lights to keep the unfamiliar interesting. And while the new tracks were hard rocking and befitting of Meat Loaf, it was the hits, after all, that the 70% capacity crowd had come to experience.

And experience them we did - "Bat Out Of Hell" (the third number performed) included enough pyro and lights to support the music and a bonus giant inflatable bat that loomed over the stage. "Two Out of Three Ain't Bad" opened with an acoustic portion. The duets "I'd Do Anything For Love (But I Won't Do That)" and "Paradise By The Dashboard" were not only present, but performed perfectly by both Meat Loaf and long-time duetist, Patti Russo. Even the unexpected guitar solo from Lynyrd Skynryd's "Freebird" delighted as a wonderful musical showcase for the guitarists and led into Meat Loaf's own "Rock 'N' Roll Dreams."

Meat's connection with the audience was instantaneous and undeniable. We were standing for track after track. He took no breaks, no intermission, I didn't even see him take a sip of water. He did stop the show once during "You Took The Words Right Out Of My Mouth" and berated the audience for not singing loud enough, considering that 90% know every word. We then rose to the occasion and the show continued.

So, Meat Loaf 2010... 33 years after he exploded on the scene - worth it? Yes! A great show from a great performer.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Friends vs. Acquaintances - Which Are You?

DISCLAIMER: If you happen to be a 'friend' of mine, you should NOT read anything personally into this blog. I am discussing an observation that has evolved over time and am not specifically targeting anyone. With that said...

What makes an Acquaintance? What makes a Friend?

I recently left a job after 14 years. Well, let's call a spade a spade, the job left me. But that's neither here nor there. At said job, I had a lot of "friends" - a lot of people who I've known for many years: ate with at lunch; drank with at parties; dined with at dinners; confided in, shared intimate details of both work life and home life. People I've been (and still am) proud to know and look forward to socializing with again.

I know a lot of these people will be Acquaintances for a long time to come. Facebook Friends who occasionally comment on my Posts or I on theirs. We poke fun at each other and generally keep in contact. I like all of these people, love some of them actually. They're my 'friends'...

But 'friends' in different sort of way than my true 'friends' - Friendship is deeper than that - and that's OK.

The main difference seems to be based on Communication - a major component of every relationship. I've found (again, over time) that there are a few people who call you, want to say 'hi' - hang out, see what you're up to, wanna grab a bite. Minimally, you can call these people Friends.

Going beyond that, of course, there can be that core group of Friends who frequently go over the top, doing things that go beyond your imagination. Fun dinners and movies, day trips, weekenders, evenings that begin simply and after much conversation and good times, you realize that it's now five-six hours later and you don't know where the time went. Should you fall into that category (and you know who you are) you are true Friends (and I love them all). A deeper love than the 'love' you have for your 'friends' (who are actually Acquaintances).

So what's the deal with Acquaintances - what is it that makes them different from Friends? Well, to start with, there is nothing wrong with Acquaintances - we all have them and need them. They're fun. The average person you know and encounter with some regularity is an Acquaintance.

I have found, though, that these are the people you reach out to. These are the ones you call, email, IM. These are people for which communication tends to be a one-way street. Oh sure, they will respond to your communiques and you'll both set-up time together... but as a rule, only after the initial contact is made by you. The key here is, you are the catalyst. Therefore, the contact doesn't tend to feel mutual...

I think that's the true difference. Mutuality. It is not as reciprocal as your relationships with your Friends. Friendship is a two-way street. Acquaintances tend to come and go because unless you're the one putting yourself out there all the time to continue the contact, Acquaintances begin to fade into the mists of time. Days become Weeks. Weeks turn into Months. Next thing you know, you can't remember the last time you saw them or talked to them. Your lives are on different paths, growing further apart as you go your ways... usually with your own friends.

This is not a condemnation, just an observation. There's a reason why songs are written about Friends. They are important.

DISCLAIMER P.S.: If for some reason you as a reader see yourself falling inadvertently into the Acquaintance category and want more... you know what you have to do.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

The Power of Lyrics - "Dreams Are Nothing More Than Wishes..."

"Dreams are Nothing More than Wishes, and a Wish is just a Dream you Wish to Come True."

- Harry Nilsson ("The Puppy Song" from the album
Harry -1969 [Click for Video])

A line that whenever I hear it, I begin to repeat it over and over - each time ever so-much slower - in an effort to analyze what Harry was trying to say. As a preface for anyone who maybe unfamiliar with Harry Nilsson, he was a brilliant singer/songwriter [Click here for a Biography], a favorite of The Beatles and a man whose voice was slowly ravaged as the 70s progressed due to drugs and alcohol and who died much too young at age 52. "The Puppy Song" is from is third album and opens with this fabulous phrase.

"Dreams are Nothing More than Wishes..." to me points to the fact that if dreams are generated by the subconscious mind, then dreams are your mind making a wish. But this is so literal it takes the beauty out of the phrase... words just as Dreams and Wishes are sentiments that make one reflect, smile, tilt one's head to the side and look upward at the vast expanse of an infinite sky. Your Dreams should be as infinite as the sky. We wish them to be. We need them to be. We should always have Dreams. But once attained, a Dream becomes Reality and is therefore no longer a Dream. This is a good thing as it now allows us to make another Wish and Dream even bigger.

"...and a Wish is just a Dream..." is not simply a reverse phrasing of the initial thought, but a reminder that your Wishes should be as pleasant as your Dreams. Which means that if you use your Wish in anger, like when you are furious at something and you wish for something bad to happen in retaliation, THAT is not a Wish... it is more of an Angry Possibility that you are imagining. So let's discard that use of the word 'wish' and get back to our use of Wishes as always referring to a Fond Desire. Dreams are the same thing (similarly, bad Dreams are Nightmares and therefore, not what we're talking about). Pleasant, hopeful, empowering. Those are the Dreams we're referring to.

" Wish to come True." Isn't this the ultimate hope? You Wish for your Dreams to come True. Everyone does. Dreaming of a brighter future or a positive change in your life is not worth a damn if you don't desire it so much that you Wish it to become your Reality. Whatever you are truly Wishing to be your Reality is your Dream. But all of this means NOTHING if that's all you do is Wish and Dream. You need to take Action.

Once you realize that, you can achieve anything. You know the Goal. You know your desired Endgame. You see the Light at the end of the tunnel that you want, desire, Wish to head for. Go for it. Follow your Dreams. This is what your subconscious Wishes to do. Wants to do. Your subconscious has desired it, craves it, needs it. Listen to your subconscious. It is after all kept alive by your Heart. Therefore by extension, this is what your Heart desires, craves, needs.

Follow your Heart.

"Dreams are Nothing More than Wishes, and a Wish is just a Dream you Wish to Come True."

Monday, April 12, 2010

The Power of Lyrics - "Life is What Happens to You While You're Busy Making Other Plans."

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

- John Lennon (from the song "Beautiful Boy [Darling Boy]" from Double Fantasy -1980 [demo version - Click for Video])

A sentiment that John Lennon proffered to his young son, Sean.

This more than any phrase or thought is one I now try to live by. When I get overly wrapped up in something or when I delay a decision or put something off until a certain number of pieces are nicely place, or decide that the time isn't right to do, buy or change a facet of my life... this phrase is the one that pops into my head, smacks some sense into me, wakes me from my stupor and forces me to move forward.

But it wasn't always this way. Between 2001 and 2005, I made three monumental decisions using this phrase as my guide. My first was to get out from under a mountain of nearly six-digit debt. How had I gotten there? Simple - I was trying to live my life as a normal person, hoping that a change would someday come to make it all right. It never did.

Once the dust settled from that, my second change was the hardest of all, and that was to acknowledge fully who I was and choose to live that way. That had its own challenges and skins to shed.

Finally, with my life settling back into a groove of calm once more, I took the last piece - my employment - and shook it up by taking a 40% paycut in order to move into a job that would make me Happy and be more fulfilling.

"Life is what happens to you..." Everyday this is the thing we are all experiencing. Whether we wake up and sit in traffic for an hour only to then end up in a small poorly lit cubicle slogging through piles of meaningless papers, or if we stay at home tending to our progeny. We go to an office, a store, the stables... plow a field, analyze data, work on a cure for HIV, teach, firefight, dry clean, deliver mail, arrange flowers, drill teeth... this is your Life. It's happening to you right this moment.

Every single being on this planet has a Life. But is it one you want? Is it one you enjoy? If not can you change it? If not, then find some way to enjoy it.

Time is marching forward and cares not whether you liked Today or hated Today. It's bringing Tomorrow, ready or not. And soon what was Today becomes Yesterday, Yesterday becomes Last Week, Last Month, Last Year... next thing you know, a Decade has gone by and somehow those plans for a better tomorrow have yet to materialize.

"... while you're busy making other plans." Do you recognize that you are in your Life? Or are you simply going through the motions of tedium, dreaming of a better tomorrow? That better tomorrow (for now) IS just your other plans. And while it is wonderful that you spend time thinking about them and working toward them, you may never get there if you don't take some time to enjoy your present Life.

Find something small that gives you joy. Find ways to enrich your Life. Maybe instead of being stuck in traffic, hop off an exit or two early and drive past a Park. Pull over, get out and stretch for five minutes, breathing in the air, listening to the birds or watch a squirrel.

This IS your Life and it is currently happening to you and plan as you might for a better tomorrow that will make you happier, make sure you take a few moments to enjoy your Life - Today.

"Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Power of Lyrics - "The Love You Take, is Equal to the Love You Make."

"...The love you take is equal to the love you make." - Lennon/McCartney
(from the song "The End" from The Beatles album, Abbey Road -1969 [w/solos - Click for Video])

The final song from the final album (yes, I know - Let It Be was released after Abbey Road, but as you all know, Abbey Road was recorded last.) This is not only an apropos swan song for a band that preached love and peace, and the only one that features instrumental solos from all four Fabs (especially Ringo's renowned solo), but a lyric that is oft-quoted and a sentiment that we all should embrace. Yet as much as this lyric speaks to me - and far (far) be it for me to second guess The Beatles - upon closer analysis I find the thought - as phrased - a bit flawed.

"The love you take..." is a harsh thought that makes one think of force. I would think a better phrase would be "The love you receive" or "The love you get back" - I believe either is closer to the intended sentiment.

The remainder of the phrase " equal to the love you make." makes it sound like simply "you get what you give" which in and of itself is OK, but not as encompassing as it could be. You get a dime because you gave 10 pennies. To me it makes love sound like it needs to be or it is nothing more than an equitable exchange.

Knowing Beatle lyrics as well as I do, and having read and listened to hundreds of hours of interviews and personal writings by the lads, I feel that what they were really meaning to say is not "The love you give is equal to the love you receive in return" but
was more along the lines of "The more you put out there, the more your efforts will be rewarded."

Right or wrong this is what I take from the phrase. It's not about the receiving or the taking of Love. It's about the giving, the making. We should be putting it out there, regardless of whether it is returned in kind. Interestingly, in the 1939 MGM Film, The Wizard of Oz, I find a similar sentiment in a similarly mis-phrased thought (to my thinking): "A heart is not judged by how much you love; but by how much you are loved by others." This is what The Wizard tells Tin Man when he bestows the silk heart. This also seems to point to the merits of 'taking love' over 'giving love' - the flawed sentiment that seems prevalent in our society (or in mankind in general).

But back to The Beatles. The intent of their lyric seems to me to be more of a wish for us, along the lines of: "may you receive as much love as you give (if not more)" - a reminder that you don't get it if you don't give it. So give it... freely and often. The more you love, the more you are loved in return.

"And in the end, the love you take, is equal to the love you make."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Power of Lyrics - An Introduction

Anyone who knows me, knows how powerful I find music to be. I walk around whistling; always a tune in my head. I listen to music at the gym, in the car, at work, at home. I aurally consume dozens of hours of music a week.

Usually, I couldn't tell you what the song is about, I don't hear the lyrics, I hear and feel the structure of the song... oh, and it has to be a structured song. No Jazz or Classical tends to do it for me. It's a structured song: Verse-Verse-Chorus-Verse-Chorus-Bridge with a Key Change-Chorus to Completion.

If my mind doesn't necessarily notice it, my body does... be it a head bob, foot tap, finger wiggle... I feel it. And no, I can't Dance either... I don't seem to have that sort of Rhythm. I even use it to concentrate - I abhor Silence. To read a book, I need some music playing. When I worked in the Legal Department, I needed to keep one half of my brain entertained with music while the other half of my brain typed out the contracts.

But every now and then, a Lyric jumps out at me. It need not be timely nor profound, it doesn't necessarily relate to something going on in my life, but something in that simple, concise string of words grabs me at that moment. You'd think with my appreciation of lyrical phrases, I would be a fan of Poetry as well. Let me put that to rest. No - I am not a Poetry fan. (Though there are a few exceptions to that - I mean, why is the Snark always a Boojum?)

So today I begin a new exploration of Lyrics. As a phrase catches my ear, I will jot it down and the expound on what I might mean to me or why it may have caught my ear at that moment.

I hope this will be fun.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Article about Me - March 23, 2010

Weisberg traveled from Warminster to Hollywood for 'Dragon'
Bucks County Courier Times

For Larry Weisberg, the road from Warminster to Tinseltown has been a long, winding and rewarding one.

The 47-year-old Philadelphia native, who devoted years to working toward a creative production assignment, served as production supervisor of modeling and surfacing for DreamWorks Animation SKG’s computer-animated “How to Train Your Dragon,” opening March 26 in 2-D and 3-D.

His trip to a Hollywood career actually began more than three decades ago when he was 14.

“In May of 1977, my whole family went to see this movie that was supposed to be cool,” Weisberg said during a telephone interview from DreamWorks in Glendale, Calif. “We got there late and had to sit in the front row.

“When those yellow letters started on the screen, they spelled out ‘Star Wars.’ I looked up and watched these giant spaceships go from left to right, and they were so realistic.

“I remember sitting there and saying to myself, ‘I want to do this!’ ”

Weisberg, whose mother resides in Trevose, Pa., spent some time at William Tennent High School in Warminster, Pa. (and left when his family moved in the middle of his sophomore year). Soon after graduation, he set out to see the world.

“I went into the Navy, because I had no interest in college,” he said. “I wanted to make films, but I didn’t want to be told (in a cinema course) whose films were genius.

“I wanted to attend the Steven Spielberg-George Lucas School of Filmmaking and create blockbusters and fun movies.”

After the Navy, in which he served from 1980 to 1985 on submarines, he became assistant manager of a music-store chain. At age 28, he grew tired of the retail record business and decided to get different experiences by becoming a temp in Long Island.

He was married at the time, and his ex-wife had some recording-industry job offers in California. They packed their car and drove to Los Angeles.

Weisberg answered an ad in the Hollywood Reporter for a receptionist/office manager for a small TV production company responsible for the documentary series “ABC World of Discovery.”

He then worked on a children’s show revolving around the Museum of Natural History in New York City before landing a temporary position in 1996 at the Walt Disney Co. He was responsible for letters from nursery school owners asking for permission to paint pictures of Mickey Mouse on their walls.

In April 1996, his life took a major change when DreamWorks hired him as a temp in the legal department. Weisberg worked as a paralegal for nine years and then felt burned out.


He appealed to DreamWorks’ human resources department to find him a job involving the studio’s animated output. He agreed to take a 40 percent pay cut to do just that.

He worked on “Over the Hedge” (2006), “Flushed Away” (2006) and “Bee Movie” (2007) in the production office. For hands-on experience, his big break came when a staff member quit suddenly and Weisberg found himself doing what he had always wanted to do — working with artists to make a movie.

On “How to Train Your Dragon,” he became production supervisor of modeling and surfacing. That process takes artwork and makes it a 3-D model in the computer. Surfacing adds textures and colors to an object.

“They (artists) can make the model shine like glass, look like rock or wood and other things from that same piece of (computer) geometry,” he said. “Everything in the film — except fire and water — is modeled and surfaced.”

Recognizing that “How to Train Your Dragon” is a technical marvel, Weisberg feels the striking visuals only work so well due to the film’s heartfelt story.

In the PG-rated picture, a teen (voice by Jay Baruchel of “Tropic Thunder”), whose father (voice by Gerard Butler of “300”) is a brave Viking leader, feels like a misfit and a poor candidate to follow in the macho footsteps of his protective father. The boy ends up capturing and taming a legendary dragon and then rides the winged creature to defend his people.

“The film is about a boy who is different and who doesn’t fit in,” said Weisberg, who named “The Jungle Book” and “Aladdin” as his favorite animated movies. “But as soon as people take the time to stop and listen to him, they find out his alternate way of thinking isn’t weird or wrong. It’s just different.
“Sometimes, different is good and better.”

And what advice does Weisberg give young people who seek a job like his?

“If you want to get into animation as an artist, you must keep drawing,” he said. “Even though the characters in these films are computer-animated, it’s still all about the (original) drawings.

“Also, post your comics on Facebook and use networking sites to find other people doing similar work.”

And even though Weisberg is now firmly established in California, he still has a taste for a particular spot in Bucks County.

“I remember pizza from Longhitano’s (which was located in Warminster and is now in Southampton, Pa.),” he said. “Thinking about their pepperoni pizza still makes my mouth water.”

Sunday, January 3, 2010

How to Make the Perfect Scrambled Egg

Something as simple as a scrambled egg can be an art.

I've tried different techniques and ratios of ingredients, debated adding milk or not, struggled to break the habit of my Mom's 'scramboozled' eggs (simply scrambling them in the frying pan as they cook), and as of this morning, I have discovered how to make the perfect scrambled egg.

For starters, the hardware: bowl, whisk (not a fork, not a spoon, but a whisk), a spatula and a frying pan (non-stick is preferred). Then comes the software: egg, milk, salt, pepper, butter. That's it. Nothing else.

The key is the ratio: one egg + one teaspoon milk + one pinch salt. This ratio works no matter how many eggs you make. I made two (so two eggs + two teaspoons milk + two pinches salt).

Crack the eggs into the bowl (or measuring cup like I use). Add milk and salt. Whisk for one minute. Your goal is to achieve a uniform color, uniform consistency, and introduce some air into the mix. Air=fluffy. You are not beating it into a froth. You do not want peaks. You just want some airy consistency.

Once done, let it sit for about a minute as you bring your frying pan up to heat on just above Medium. Add enough butter to coat the pan and before (not after) but before the butter completely melts (and begins to burn, which you know it will), add the egg mixture.

Let it is sit for about 10-15 seconds, adding a few crrw-crrws of freshly ground pepper. Once the edges begin to cook, gently use your spatula to move the sides into the center of the pan. Do not stir, chop, flip or even fold your scrambled eggs. Just remain calm and make simple moves. This should continue for about a minute (for two eggs). Your time, of course, will differ depending on the amount of eggs you are preparing (although I would highly suggest cooking your eggs in small batches).

Keep doing this until the egg is ALMOST completely cooked - leave some runny. If you wait until all the runny is gone, you will overcook your egg. The egg is hot enough to continue cooking the runny after you remove it from the pan.

Quickly plate and enjoy.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year, New Start - Make Changes NOW

As January 1 approached, most people began to think about things they'd like to change; things they wanted to do differently; something new they were going to start - eating better, exercising more, being nicer, thriftier, stop nail biting, no more snacking... on and on and on.

But why what for some date in the future... DO IT NOW. Don't wait until January 1, or your next Birthday, or as soon as you Graduate, or as soon as school is over or summer is over, Labor Day begins, and on and on and on.
One delay after another.

One excuse after another.

"Tomorrow I will ______." Is that because I want one more day to error before I change? Procrastination perhaps?

I had a friend who loved to say, "I'm going to give it six more months." What happens at the six month mark? Why make up such a generic, meaningless deadline for yourself?

Do it NOW. Do you really need a deadline? A goal? A date to shoot for? No... that's just an excuse - and I do it to.

So here's my resolution. No more artificial deadlines. No more delaying to some calendaric milestone. If I want to change something, I'm going to start right now... this very second.

We all should.