This is an ever-evolving story of a girl writer and her two greatest loves, the movies and travel. As she hikes the trenches of Hollywood, you're brought along for the ride.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The Skies Are Limited

Once upon a time, I enjoyed flying. Once upon a time, I flirted with the idea of becoming a pilot or even a flight attendant-- anything that could bring me the allure of those open skies above the Earth.

Flying was a unique experience. There were times when I was more enthused about getting on the airplane than I was about my final destination. I enjoyed pulling down my overhead tray when I saw the flight attendants beginning their descent down the aisle. I enjoyed observing how quickly and fanatically my fellow passengers and I would unwrap our silverware so we could pick at unidentifiable airline food. We ate it-- yet never failed to complain about how detestable the food was, still again.

I endured a series of flights on recent travels to visit my family. I dutifully removed my shoes and reminded myself how much I hate terrorists not only for all the obvious reasons, but also for how they ruined my love of flying. My sense of "flying adventure" has been compromised ever since. First, it was the shoes. Then it was the gels and liquid fiasco which infuriated me most two years ago when a TSA employee searched all my baggage and confiscated a jar of apple butter. I've written about that before. I'm also happiest when I'm fully hydrated, but carrying a bottle of water through security has become something of the past as well.

Every flight is full. The honey-roasted peanuts are a distant memory. After take-off flight attendants are nowhere to be found. Checked baggage costs more. Overhead bins are bulging which irritates those of us, like me, who always travel light and never check a bag. Throughout my flights yesterday, I was forced to check my carry-on at the jetway; they were out of room. I cannot remember the last time I'd ever had to visit baggage claim. It was something I took pride in avoiding. I wasn't exactly looking forward to revisiting that experience-- especially against my will.

During those flights yesterday, not once, did my overhead tray leave its upright position. It irritated me every time they announced that "beverages were available for purchase." I was okay with no food, but no beverage? Come on. A gentleman behind me asked for a "courtesy cup" of water. I turned around with interest to see if his wish was granted.

I wondered, "Is there courtesy left in the formerly friendly skies?"

He was denied. Although, we discovered, ice is still free [for the time being.] I laughed when that same gentleman and his companion toasted their free cups of ice and held them up to their reading lights in hopes of creating water for themselves...eventually.

Without a complimentary beverage to look forward to, I was forced to watch an in-flight movie about all the other things available for purchase in the cabin and in the Sky Mall catalog. I was forced to learn how I could get an airline-endorsed credit card in which I could earn points for all these worthless purchases. That video, by the way, lasted significantly longer than the safety video and was much harder to tune out-- not that I ever tune out the safety video.

These days, I pay attention more than ever. I don't trust the airlines anymore. I secretly wish that the seat that doubles as a flotation device also contained a parachute-- not for emergencies per se, but in case I choose to escape from the suffocating experience of flying that I used to enjoy, once upon a time.

Has the complimentary ice melted yet?

*The author has had a bad experience on nearly every major U.S. airline carrier. She wishes that Air New Zealand flew domestically and hopes that seat cushion parachutes are in the future.*

Photo credit: Darren Hester/flickr
Copyright © 2008 KLiedle

Monday, August 11, 2008

A Tale Of Two Bernies...

On Saturday, I heard that Bernie Brillstein passed away. He was 77. Brillstein was an influential talent manager and producer who had led a career in show business for over fifty years. He started off, like many , in the William Morris Agency mail room. In the late 60s, he founded his first management company—Brillstein Co. In later years, he partnered with Brad Grey to form Brillstein-Grey, a personal management and production company which remains well-known in the industry.

We can thank Bernie Brillstein for his help in launching “Saturday Night Live” and “The Mumpet Show” (which I’d watched countless times throughout my childhood.)
Without him, “Happy Gilmore” and “The Cable Guy” might still be in development hell. Without him, my childhood could’ve been robbed of such goofy, yet fun-loving entertainment such as “Alf” and “Ghostbusters,” both of which Brillstein executive produced as well.

Later the same day, someone told me that Bernie Mac died. “Bernie Mac?” I vaguely knew he had been hospitalized with pneumonia, but the last snippet I’d read said that he was apparently responding to treatment. It was possible, yet unlikely. Rumors….gossip, the beginnings of an urban legend, perhaps. Losing two Bernies, both entertainment giants, in one day? With a roll of dice, the probability seemed against it until

I turned on the news that evening to hear newscasters reporting the sudden and shocking death of actor and comedian Bernie Mac at age 50. How could a man, so full of life and spirit and talent, be extinguished so quickly? Bernie Mac came from nothing yet accomplished so much in his 50 years. People that worked with him said that he occupied a room, but was huge presence was never intimidating. On the contrary, he was approachable, fiercely funny, and loved by many.

I know this to be true. I used to work down the street from CBS Radford Studios where “The Bernie Mac Show” taped. I know Scott Vogel who occasionally did storyboards for the show. It was always a good gig for him. The cast and crew were always friendly and inviting, he told me. I believed him wholeheartedly because my experience backed that up.

This was also back in the age (not so long ago) when I was still cultivating my espresso talents at one of the local coffee joints. Several crew members from “Bernie Mac” were regulars there. I knew them by name, I knew their drinks by heart, and I also knew that they considered themselves extremely lucky to be working on “The Bernie Mac Show.” I know this to be true because I remember some of the same crew members coming in the day after they learned the show was cancelled. I could see the sadness in their eyes, the look of being lost, unsure of where they or their careers would be headed next. A fantastic chapter in their lives was ending. Those cast and crew members dispersed. Some moved away, some went on to other shows. Yet, this week, they are again united as they mourn the loss of their “Big Mac” leader—the guy that brought himself and that working experience into their lives.

Two Bernies in one day. What are the chances? A roll of the dice and even the best of us, the most spirited, the most talented, the most passionate can be extinguished at any time.

Somewhere in heaven, two Bernies are shaking hands and laughing. And in Brillstein, Bernie Mac just might have met his new agent.

Copyright © 2008 KLiedle
"The Bernie Mac Show" storyboards by Scott Vogel.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

The Dwindling State of Newsprint

I know the economy's down. Prices for gas along with groceries have skyrocketed in recent months-- along with nearly everything else.

Another mysterious thing? Packaging.

It isn't my imagination. Boxes of cereal are shrinking and it's not that the "contents have shifted" as they claim. We're getting less cereal for the same price or more. It's happening across the board-- ice cream, too. Half a gallon? No more. Now it's 1.5 quarts. That means the box is melting before the ice cream even hits the freezer aisle.

It's happening with the newspaper, too-- at least The Los Angeles Times. Recently, I recycled nearly 2/3 of the paper-- all ads/classifieds/etc. before I even began to read what little was left.

I know that people are going to the internet in droves for everything from shopping to reading the news and job-searching. I know that newspapers are going through tough times, but every day that the quality goes down and the paper shrinks in size is another day I question whether or not I'm going to renew my "Weekend only" subscription.

At first I thought it was my imagination. Maybe I just didn't get the Los Angeles Times Magazine in the Sunday paper this week. Then, it didn't show up again. Now, I don't even know if it exists anymore. Pretty soon, the Travel section disappeared. Then the coupons dwindled down to nothing. As a reader, I was advised to print free coupons online!-- at my own expense. (With the price of ink cartridges along, doesn't that negate any savings I'd incur?) Most recently, the Calendar Guide that comes out on Thursdays was axed. The Times claimed that it wasn't being discontinued, but instead was finding a new home online.

Well, you know what?

I don't want to go online to read the stupid guide. I don't want to go online to read the entire newspaper. I'm online more than I'd like for many reasons-- many of them out of necessity of living in this wired world. What I like least is reading online for extended periods of time. I detest it. I look forward to times when I can take a walk or hold a book or flip through a newspaper just so I can be away from the computer. I like the look of print on a page. I like the smell of newsprint. I don't even mind the occasional smudged fingers. None of the things that really touch my senses can be replaced by technology. There are some things that still need to be experienced hands-on. There are some things I still need to touch and taste and smell for myself. If that means smudged fingers, so be it.

Photo credit: cat on newspaper by hokiecsgrad/flickr
Copyright © 2008 KLiedle