Some explanation of the title of my blog is in order. Squirt is a feral tomcat who figured out the cat door. I think he’s been tortured (his tail is a mess) so he avoids people. But he likes the food, a particular pillow on the couch (I’ve had to cover the couch to protect it), and being around the house. We can’t touch him but he watches wistfully as we pet our cats. I think he wants affection but doesn’t know how to trust. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking; he’s probably thinking I’d make a good meal. I think I’d prefer not to die when Squirt’s around. Anyway, I feel sorry for him, except when he spraypaints our house with urine, and I admire his adaptability. I’ll work on gaining his trust until I can cut his fuzzy little nuts off. Until then, I’ll keep my ammonia bottle and kneepads handy for clean-ups. The Daily Squirt will try to reflect my impression of the cat himself. Cautious, adaptable, amusing…and sometimes it’ll stink on ice. Keep your ammonia bottle and kneepads handy.

Did I forget to mention that I’m a struggling writer with a novel, First Year, and a memoir, Greetings from Casa Cesspool to my credit? Read more about my work at my website, http://www.bagmlit.com.

FB cover snip 3

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Rehearsal for Gershwin Under the Stars

I went to the rehearsal for Gershwin Under the Stars at the Hollywood Bowl by myself today because Gordon was out of town on business. I thought about skipping but it was only 80 degrees outside and I didn’t want to miss a chance to hear a rehearsal without getting heat stroke. I still wore all my protective gear–BIG hat, long-sleeved shirt, light-weight pants, and sunglasses. I took my coffee cup and two crossword puzzle for  entertainment. I knew they’d give me water and a granola bar. I did puzzles while Bramwell Tovey, the musical director of the Vancouver Symphony, conducted Gershwin’s Strike Up the Band Overture, Duke Ellington’s The Handsome Traffic Policeman, Gershwin’s ‘I Got Rhythm’ Variations, Ellington’s Night Creature, and finished with Gershwin’s An American in Paris. You have to hand it to British conductors; they love jazz and offer a unique interpretation to American composers. Aaron Diehl was the pianist for the ‘I Got Rhythm’ Variations. His playing was precise but still emotive, if that’s actually possible. Lots of talent there. Elllington interpreted by an aging white Brit is very Noel Cowardly…Cowardy..Cowardish. Anyway, it was clever. And I’ve never heard such a polite British version of An American in Paris, even though they found a greasy sax section. Even the trumpet was greasy but it was still so civilized. I think this concert will be fun under the stars. It was fun under the sun even though I had to move to get away from two yakking old ladies. Why in the world are they even there? If they want to talk, go to a coffee shop. Let the rest of listen to the music in peace. I suppose I should have gone to war but I just didn’t have the energy. I’m also getting spoiled; the last time we attended a play at the Taper the guy sitting next to me complained to the management about the yakking old ladies behind us. The old ladies were quietly shushed by the house manager. Boy, were they pissed. “I’ve never been spoken to like before in my life!” huffed one old biddy. I loudly thanked the guy who complained. At least they shut up. Guess I’m not the only one who’s tired of it. But I digress…

I didn’t have Gordon to talk to so I had lots of time to notice things. I noticed that the orchestra was mostly kiddies, not the regular Phil musicians. The kids did very well and it’s good experience for them. I noticed three helicopters and one airplane droning overhead. I thought it was just the evening shows they dive-bombed. Irritating. I thought they were supposed to fly around the Bowl. I noticed five cowboy hats and I give Gordon credit for that. Last time we went to a rehearsal Gordon wore a chambray shirt, jeans, and his Brad Paisley cowboy hat. He looked like the Marlboro Man. He told me when he came back from a bathroom break that a big, black dude (don’t know if he was a donor or worked for the Phil) said, “Yeeha.” Gordon, in good cowboy fashion, just nodded. Cowboys don’t waste words. Anyway, he must have made a fashion statement because I’d never seen cowboys hats before and today there were five. One woman went full-out cowboy–hat, plaid shirt, denim shorts, wide leather belt, and $1,000 tote. I had to smile.

An additional treat was I got to park next to an open lane. Even though they stack parked, my Miata has such a tight turn radius I was able to back up two feet and get free. I was one of the first people out instead of the last! Yippee!

Another clear warm day at the Hollywood Bowl.

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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time

Gordon and I went to see The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time at the Ahmanson last night. Of course, Gordon wanted French onion soup so we stopped at Kendall’s before the show. The only thing going on at the Music Center was The Curious, etc. so our reservation was wasted. But we make a reservation anyway these days. We’re guaranteed a seat when a lot is going on. We even got our spot at the end of the bar–something which hasn’t happened in months. And we got to play Jeopardy! No CNN! No crap from the overlords who seem to have a fetish about the remote! And everybody at the bar played along. We were all equally stupid so we had a wonderful time. I don’t know why there was such a to-do about Jeopardy. Nobody wants to watch the news these days. Depressing and boring. Thanks to Chris, the bartender, for catering to the customers. He’s pretty good at Jeopardy so he probably enjoys playing, too.

We took our regular seats at the Ahmanson and admired the set–after being unsettled by the dead dog with a garden fork sticking out of him in the middle of the stage. That sight will get your onion soup roiling. I guess the dog stuck out–had a fork in him, get it?–because the rest of the set was so minimalist. Cubes served at furniture, cubbies in the set wall played refrigerators and drawers, and rear-screen projection served as a blackboard. The rest of the set was a grid of lights. The show is very imaginative, the choreography is exceptional, and the performances were stellar. From reading the playbill it seems that all of the actors are American but the play takes place in England so they all had wonderful Brit accents. The story is about an autistic kid who wants to find out who killed the dog who belonged to a neighbor. He becomes a detective even though he hates talking to people. He forces himself out of his comfort zone. As the play progresses we’re introduced to the main characters in the kid’s life. They’re normal but the kid seems to be the most un-screwed up of them all. I guess the point of the play is that we’re all good and bad at different things. The kid seems braver than his parents because he’s willing to move beyond the familiar to achieve what he wants. The parents are decent people but capable of great brutality. I guess the moral of the story is we all do the best we can with what circumstances we get. At the end of the play, the kid asks his teacher if he can accomplish anything he wants since he gets Ace Stars on his math tests. The teacher just holds up her hands without a word. Maybe. All any of us can do is try; there are no guarantees. It was a clever, touching production. Gordon stayed awake throughout so it gets no Zs on the snore scale. As a matter of fact, I didn’t see any nappers. And that says a lot because it’s a long show.

Oh, and they included a puppy at the end. Big “aawwwss” all around. I want the puppy.

This is the peace statue in front of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion at the Music Center.


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Rehearsal at the Hollywood Bowl

One of the perks of being a donor to the Los Angeles Philharmonic is an invitation to a rehearsal. So Gordon and I put on our hats and other protective gear to attend a rehearsal of the concert to be presented tonight at the Hollywood Bowl. I knew the Phil was performing Wagner’s Greatest Hits (it’s summer; you expect the program to be dumbed down) but I didn’t think I’d like the show so much–especially since it was 98 degrees in the shade and there was no shade. Dudamel conducted the Phil and the Los Angeles Master Chorale (must have been almost 200 people on stage) as they performed excerpts from Tannheuser (is that spelled right? I can’t find the program), The Flying Dutchman, and Der Meistersingers of Nuremberg. I don’t think I’ve ever heard any of these pieces live before and the sound was stunning. I snickered through the Tannheuser piece because I first heard it performed by Bugs and Elmer in a cartoon. Gordon and I sang that version at a break, to the amusement of the people next to us.  The men’s section of the chorus thundered out the Flying Dutchman thing. What I know as the Wedding March from Meistersingers was absolutely glorious–loved the women’s voices in particular. My God, Wagner wrote some amazing music. It’s hard to reconcile the fact that the all this wonderful music came from the same sort of people who produced the Holocaust. I’m tempted to go back tonight to hear an uninterrupted version when I’m not trying to hear through heat stroke but no, this morning was enough. I hope they tape it and put it on PBS or something. Everybody should have a chance to hear this.

Hot, hot, hot! No shade anywhere.


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We survived the Fourth

Well, we made it through the 4th without a fire. The city attorney sent out a letter sternly warning of consequences for illegal fireworks. Well, the relatives of an old lady on the street brought in a U-Haul truck of fireworks. They started at 8:30 and went to 10:30. On the news, there were so many illegal fireworks displays that the media told people not to bother calling the police; they couldn’t cover any of it. Normally, I just go downstairs to get away from the noise but the hipsters across the alley were throwing a party and they started thumping at 7. Couldn’t go anywhere to get away from the noise. If Gordon’s band speakers were plugged in I’d have had a stereo war with them–haven’t lost yet with the band amps–but they’re stowed away. Sigh. We should probably leave for the 4th but we get so much detritus from the fireworks I seriously worry about a fire. And the M80s drove the cats nuts. They both hid out in their safe spots downstairs and appeared briefly when they needed comfort. This morning Gordon picked up beer cans and 3/4 of a bottle of wine left on our front yard. Annoying. And what’s really weird is I think the fireworks people think they’re doing the neighborhood a favor. One neighbor told me they spent over $5000 on fireworks. Wish they’d ask. I think thy only person who lives on the street and isn’t related to these people who likes the fireworks is Gordon. Oh, and the hipsters. They crawl up the hill and cheer. And sit on my lawn. Get off my lawn! I’m ready to move again. Although that seems a little drastic for one bad night. I should just find a hotel, I guess.

George when he’s not running from fireworks.

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More marketing

I got a nudge from Facebook noting that I hadn’t posted anything on a marketing page and I should get off my dead butt and put something up. I’m paraphrasing but they really did sound like my mother. So here’s a review. Look ma, I’m marketing!

Joyce Engleson was Editor-in-Chief for E.P. Dutton and editor-at-large for Crown Publishing, among many prestigious titles. She was also a best-selling author before her death in 2010. She was a highly accomplished woman. This is what she had to say about First Year. To order, go to: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00JYIV9D6



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Wings, the movie at the Theatre at Ace Hotel

Wonder why it’s spelled Theatre instead of the American way…Anyway, Gordon and I went downtown last night to see a re-mastered version of the silent film, Wings, at the Theatre at the Ace Hotel. I’d never seen Wings before so I wasn’t sure what to expect, especially when I saw there was no organ in the pit. As a matter of act, there was no pit. Leonard Maltin, the historian and critic, interviewed the son of the director and the VP in charge of Paramount’s archives and all was explained. According to the Paramount VP, Andrea Kalas, the original score was reproduced (which was performed by a full symphony!) when a Paramount sound editor volunteered to do the sound editing. The film maker’s son explained that the original production was budgeted at $1.2 million and eventually cost over $2 million…and this was back in 1927 when $2 million was a lot of money. But Paramount got it all back. The film ran as a first run picture for over 2 years. It got the Best Picture Oscar in 1929 (I think that’s what he said); the first movie to ever win a Best Picture Oscar. Gary Cooper had about 2 minutes of screen time before they killed him off but it made him a huge star. He reminded me of Gordon in his coltish years. The archivist explained that the original film was hand-painted (all those frames!) to make the machine-gun fire and the dying plane exhaust look orange. Gordon commented that if the film ran for two years all over the country, it must have kept artists employed painting in all those reels of frames. No wonder the movie cost so much. But I enjoyed it. Wings ran for 144 minutes with a ten-minute intermission. Even after all these years it’s still an involving, emotional war movie. The son said his father had been a pilot for the USA in WWI so he knew what he was making a movie about. I’m glad I saw it.

Also glad we got back into the Theatre. Maltin commented that he hadn’t been in it for years until the LA Conservancy started the Last Remaining Seats program. It’s a magnificent theater that’s finally making money.

Gordon and I were reminded that we’ve going to these events for 31 years. We actually went to the first attempt to exhibit the old theaters five years before the Conservancy got involved. The story goes that AFI put on the first BEST Remaining Seats series. We went to all the Downtown theaters and actually got to go to Catalina, Santa Barbara, and Riverside to see old films at those historic theaters. Actors in the films shown were usually on hand to discuss their part in those films. We saw the last public appearances of Merle Oberon, Ruby Keeler (who was in a wheelchair; all those years of hoofing take a toll on the body), but my best memory is of Lillian Gish.  It was so hot in the Wiltern, where The Wind had been presented, that I snuck out early to cool off. I was on hand when Ms. Gish was hustled out of the theater and tucked into a Honda. I looked at Gordon and said, “A Honda? My, Hollywood has fallen.” Apparently, the limo driver missed his time and they had to get the old girl out of there before she was mobbed. I wonder if he got fired. Anyway, the theater/movie series was so successful that the guy in charge embezzled all the money and went to Mexico. Not sure if that’s true but I do know the program was dropped. The Conservancy didn’t get involved until later when the theaters were actually in danger of being demolished. Thank God they’ve been saved. Hope next year is as much fun.

The interior of the theater was influenced by churches Mary Pickford saw in Spain.

Is this called an oculus? It’s on the ceiling of the theater.


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Los Angeles Theater

Gordon and I went to the Los Angeles Theater last night to see Easter Parade put on by the LA conservancy’s Last Remaining Seats program. We toured the theater before the show. I keep forgetting just how spectacular theaters were in the ‘good old days’. Even the bathrooms were remarkable. The problem was–men were oohing and aahing over the women’s room while women were peeing. It wasn’t a big deal; the stall doors were floor to ceiling so anyone could have been peeing. In the main meeting room downstairs from the stage were costume exhibits; we saw dresses worn by Garland in Meet me in St Louis, Easter Parade, and that farm thing she did with Gene Kelly. She was tiny! She couldn’t have been more than 5 feet tall and more than 90 pounds. Except for the bust the dresses could have fit a pre-teen girl. I felt like the incredible hulk next to them. We got our pictures taken at the sideshow exhibit then went into the theater. I sighed when I read the program; a barber shop quartet was doing a set before the movie. In the past, most of the acts put on by the conservancy were pretty lame and I was sure this would be a bore, too. Was I ever wrong. These guys didn’t sing ‘Sweet Adeline’; they did a capella versions of Queen songs, even some Vanilla Ice. And they were all great singers. They call themselves Bank of Harmony so if you’re looking for an interesting act for an event you might consider them. They were followed by a fashion show of movie costumes provided by Greg Schreiner, a producer and collector. We saw costumes worn by Susan Hayward, Arme Hammer, and even the harem girl costume worn by Streisand in Funny Lady. That was fun. Then Leonard Maltin, the film historian and critic, talked about the history of the movie. I didn’t know that Gene Kelly was originally supposed to play the Astaire’s part but he broke his foot. Instead of delaying production six months or so Fred Astaire, who’d said he was retired from movies, was asked if he’d come out of retirement. Astaire said he would just so he could work with Judy Garland. And they were a hit. I don’t think I’ve ever seen the opening segments of Easter Parade before. And I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen it without commercials. I loved it. Lots of fun.

We didn’t go to Clifton’s for the trivia game after the movie. We didn’t have any fun the last time and they made us play with strangers which was creepy. Next Wednesday is our last movie of the series. We’ll be seeing Wings at the Theater at the Ace Hotel which is now considered hip. Think I’ll sneer at the hipsters. I can suck my teeth and yell at them to “get off my lawn.” It takes so little to amuse me these days.

We’re hams, too.

A little role reversal.

Los Angeles’ answer to Versailles. Sort of reminds me of the Hall of Mirrors.


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