You’ll Never Work in this Town Again!

Hollywood

It’s a cliche, for sure. In the past it was the popular threat lobbed by film industry big-wigs at the powerless in Hollywood. Lately, though, it could well apply to some of those same film industry big-wigs, including a famous producer named Harvey Weinstein. You’ll never work in this town again!

If you haven’t been following the news for the past few weeks, Harvey is (was) a key figure in the film industry, having produced dozens of films through his companies Miramax and The Weinstein Company. Today he has been disowned by his former colleagues, to the extent of being kicked out of the Academy. He might even be indicted on a rape charge in the next few days.

All of this bad news for Harvey stems from allegations that he has engaged in a long pattern of sexual harassment/assault in the context of his role as a Hollywood big-wig; that he used his power to entice/coerce women into sex. I won’t go into the tawdry details, which seem pathetic and idiosyncratic. Suffice to say that it shouldn’t surprise anyone that women would categorize the contact from Harvey as unwanted. There is nothing remotely attractive about Harvey; an older man whose looks disqualify him from appearing in any visual artistic medium, except perhaps as a character actor. I should mention here my suspicion that Harvey was the inspiration for the fictional character Les Grossman, portrayed by Tom Cruise in the comedy “Tropic Thunder.”

I have to say that the allegations against Harvey didn’t surprise me; not because I have any inside information or insight to the workings of Hollywood, but just because men in positions of power will be tempted to use their power to have more sex. What did surprise me is how quickly Harvey’s situation unraveled. He went from being one of the most important figures in Hollywood to being persona non grata within a few short weeks. This happened in the absence of any formal charges being brought by authorities; as though everyone in Hollywood already had all the information they needed to, for example, kick him out of the Academy. But if everyone already knew about Harvey, why was his behavior tolerated? I suspect the reason is because if you crossed him, “you’ll never work in this town again!” While it is appropriate to view the women who were the target of Harvey’s unwanted advances as victims, it is also important to acknowledge that to the extent they were silent in furtherance of their career goals they probably enabled the behavior to go on longer than it might have otherwise.

Let’s do a thought experiment in which we are struggling actors trying to make it in the film industry against all odds. A powerful movie mogul dangles the prospect of being cast in a film and all we have to do is play along with their sexual demands. And this scenario isn’t limited to women actors, because there have also been allegations from male actors that they, too, were harassed/assaulted by powerful Hollywood men. I’m sure we’d all like to think that no, of course we wouldn’t lower ourselves to do something like that. But can we agree that really, we don’t know what we would do unless we were actually faced with a choice like that. One thing that has occurred to me since the scandal broke is how certain films get made. I watch a lot of movies on cable and in some instances I ask myself, about a quarter of the way through: “How did this piece of shit ever get made?” I mean, the acting/script/production is so bad that you think to yourself is this really the best they could come up with? I suspect that some of those films were made to satisfy promises to people who had slept their way into the production.

I don’t know how this is all going to play out as regards Harvey. It does seem like an opportunity for Hollywood to change, though. As someone who enjoys film as an artistic medium, I wonder whether changes in Hollywood will result in better art. One can only hope that going forward decisions on casting and hiring for film productions will become more of a meritocracy and less of a sexual quid pro quo.

 

 

 

Oakland Athletics, 2017

IMG_2477

There is a standard admonishment stated at the beginning of every Major League Baseball game broadcast that all accounts, descriptions, etc., without the express written consent of Major League Baseball are strictly prohibited. Which means I can’t write about a particular game I attended, lacking, as I do, the requisite express written consent. Instead, I’m going to write about this year’s Oakland Athletics experience in general, having attended two games so far in this still young season.

Both games I attended were Wednesday games with a 12:30 p.m. start time. Most weekday games are played at night so that people who work during the day can attend in the evening. The Wednesday games precede team travel days prior to a road trip. My work schedule having now changed, I am able to attend day games during the week and I promised myself I would go to as many of these Wednesday games as possible. There is nothing quite so indulgent as whiling away a few hours in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, when so many others toil. It feels sinful, but I am going to get used to it anyway.

The big news for the Athletics this year is not so much the team itself as the changes made to improve the fan experience. You might ask what could improve the fan experience when the Athletics home field occupies the Oakland Coliseum, known by fans throughout baseball as one of the less desirable stadiums. There are some reasons to think that. The Coliseum was completed in 1966. It is also a duel use stadium. In addition to the Athletics, the Oakland Raiders also play home games there, for the time being (more about that later). Also, despite the age of the stadium it does not have the sort of legacy, or shall we say “vintage” appeal of places like Fenway Park in Boston, or Wrigley Field in Chicago. So, it’s old, but not old enough or quirky enough to have any cachet.

Well, it turns out, the Athletics organization has done an admirable job making the most out of what they had to work with. This is due to the efforts of the new team president, a guy named Dave Kaval. The previous public face of the Athletics organization was a guy named Lew Wolff, who decided to sell his stake in the team and leave the organization. Mr. Wolff was know by most fans of the Athletics as the guy who tried to move the team out of Oakland. So, one big change to improve the fan experience is not having to think about him, or worry about the team leaving town. In fact, for me personally, that’s probably the most important change, and the Athletics organization seems to think so, too. They have branded the Coliseum with signs and banners with the declaration “Rooted in Oakland,” with a background of iconic symbols of the city, like shipping cranes (you have to be local to “get” that one) and the stylized symbol of the oak tree that serves as the city’s official logo.

And they’ve tried to lend some vintage cred to the place by naming the baseball field after one of the greatest Athletics, Ricky Henderson, so now it’s Ricky Henderson Field. They’ve also added a mechanized sign in center field in the shape of the words “Holy Toledo!,” which was the tag line of the great sportscaster Bill King. When they play the Star Spangled Banner, the words are washed over with a waving Stars and Stripes. And, in a stroke of genius, they have expanded the “interior” of the Coliseum to include an area outside of the physical stadium in the space between the Coliseum and Oracle Arena. They’ve named this area Championship Plaza, spruced it up with some artificial turf, picnic tables and, best of all, food trucks. Now, instead of being limited to the food and beverage concessions inside the stadium, you can get your food from one of the trucks and take it back to your seat. The difference in the quality of the food cannot be overstated.  The prices are much more reasonable, as well.

The concept of bringing the outside inside extends to what used to be called the West Side Club; now renamed “Shibe Park,” which harkens back to the days when the Athletics were in Philadelphia. There is an elevated patio area that adjoins Shibe Park and overlooks Championship Plaza; kind of like someone got the idea, “Hey, why don’t we open these doors and let a little fresh air in!” Shibe Park has also been upgraded from the old West Side Club configuration; it’s got a billiard table and a ping pong table. There is also a kid-friendly area on the patio with amusements such as a pitching cage, face painting, etc.

Someone told me that Kaval is not the one who came up with all these ideas; that he got these ideas by listening to the fans. If that’s true, it’s consistent with the feel of the Athletics organization these days. For the longest time fans of the Athletics have been saying, “Don’t leave! We’ll support you! We love you! You can stay in Oakland!” It really feels like someone listened, and perhaps that’s the biggest upgrade of all. You see, Oakland is about to lose the Warriors to San Francisco. And the aforementioned Raiders have a deal for a new stadium in Las Vegas. Both teams will leave Oakland in a few years. It feels good to know that at least the Athletics are committed to staying.

Now, as for the team itself, the season is still young and the Athletics have a way of outperforming and surprising people. A few years ago they beat the Texas Rangers (a far better team on paper) on the last day of the season to win the division. Then there was the “Moneyball” team with that crazy 22 game winning streak. They had a terrible record at this point in that season and they went to the playoffs. So, who knows what will happen. They’re a few games under .500 right now. All I know for sure is that the Athletics won both games I attended so far. Those Wednesday games; gotta love ’em.

Let’s go Oakland!

 

 

Change

After many years doing HR work I am shifting my career focus to writing as my primary vocation. I’ve read many articles about this type of change and it takes awhile to make a complete transition. Most say three to five years.

I suspect that complete “transition” will mean different things for different people, depending on where they are in life and their expectations relative to income and whether they want the transition to entail full time work. For me, it means I am going freelance to control the amount of time I spend writing. At this point in my life, barring something unforeseen, I am not interested in working full time.

I guess the “unforeseen” may entail changes to my financial situation, but so far as things stand now, I’m not expecting that sort of thing to derail my plans.

Step one on my path to freelance writing is to re-start this blog, which I’ve neglected terribly for some time now due to other commitments. People ask me how I intend to monetize a blog, but from my perspective that’s not really the point. The primary purpose initially is to build a platform where people can read my work in order to figure out if they want me to do some freelance work for them.

So, you can expect regular posts going forward. I’ve connected this blog to some social media so you won’t have to go searching for it if you’re already connected to me via Facebook, Linkedin, or Twitter. If we haven’t connected yet, but you’ve somehow stumbled across this blog and want to receive regular posts, the easiest way is to follow me on Twitter @Mikekrich.

Thanks for reading!

Pride

_mickey_may_cry.png

A reader of my blog asked why I haven’t been posting lately. He said that he missed my posts and encouraged me to start posting again.

The reason I haven’t been posting is because I had decided to avoid posting about negative stuff, under the theory that there is enough negative stuff out there and who needs the clutter? The problem is that there isn’t enough positive stuff to keep a steady stream of posts going. A case in point is the horrible terrorist attack in Orlando today that killed 50 people, making it the worst mass shooting in our country’s history.

So, the reason I’m posting about this, even though it is obviously negative stuff, is because I think there may be a positive aspect to it. I’m going to share three thoughts about this incident, ending with the observation that may be seen as a silver lining amidst unfathomable tragedy.

My first observation is that my daughter is now 14 years old, and she has never experienced a day of her life when our country has not been at war with the forces of terrorism. Having no basis for comparison, she is mostly unaware of the daily indignities we’ve come to accept as “normal,” whether it’s the security checkpoints, the invasive governmental apparatus intended to keep us safe, or the sense that privacy has become a thing of the past. I don’t know whether this sorry state of affairs will ever reverse itself, but today’s events certainly portend a continuation of current trends in the foreseeable future.

Next, there has been interesting phraseology used by the media to “headline” the story, namely: The Worst Mass Shooting in American History. While that is a factual statement, to me, it misses the real story, which is that today we experienced the worst terrorist attack on American soil since 9/11 (in fairness, that was also mentioned by most media outlets). My suspicion is that this choice reflects a desire by some to have the narrative be about a shooting, along the lines of Sandy Hook or the Aurora theater massacre, and at the same time avoid a narrative that the war on terror is not going well. Sure enough, within three hours of the story breaking on CNN there were a couple of politicians who were interviewed and used the opportunity to talk about gun control. In my opinion, talking about gun control at that particular moment was unseemly, regardless of one’s views on the topic. To me, it smacked of political opportunism.

So, how can there possibly be a positive aspect to all this?

To the extent that vestiges of antagonism remain between the LGBT community in our country and some straight Americans, I believe this event erased that antagonism to a large degree, if not completely. The reason is that Americans view the victims of the attack as their fellow Americans, and the fact that they were enjoying themselves in a gay bar at the time of the attack shrinks to insignificance.

It’s Pride Month, so let’s take the opportunity to expand what Pride Month means, to include pride in the survivors who helped others in the direct aftermath, to the police community and first responders in Florida who saved a lot of lives today (thank goodness for a positive story about them; about time), and to Americans everywhere who looked at their fellow Americans suffering, and only saw that.

My thoughts and prayers go out to all those affected. To those who didn’t survive, rest in peace.

 

 

Concert Review: Dead & Company with John Mayer, 12/28/15

 

Dead and Company 2

I went to see this concert with an old friend and fellow veteran of Grateful Dead shows. You know, the ones that occurred when Jerry Garcia was still alive. I had seen several of the post-Jerry lineups over the years and it always seemed more like a party featuring Grateful Dead music than an actual Grateful Dead show. So my expectations for this concert were tame, perhaps in part because it seemed a bit odd to pair John Mayer with the Grateful Dead.

These things can get very subjective, like when you think you’ve just seen an excellent Grateful Dead show and your friend standing right next to you the whole time deems it mediocre. But for me, personally, this was the best post-Jerry show I’ve seen.

John Mayer is a revelation. As a guy who’s best known for radio friendly pop rock, it was weird to see him immersed in Grateful Dead music. And when I say immersed I mean he hasn’t just drunk the Dead cool aid, he’s soaking in the damn vat. Welcome to the club, buddy. John Mayer is a total deadhead. Who knew? Visually, it was like the high school quarterback joined the hippies smoking in the parking lot. Here’s your hot new Grateful Dead guitar hero, but with better hair and pretty boy looks. The thing is, Mayer is so into it, he so “gets” the whole Grateful Dead thing, that it works. He injected a youthful energy that you could sense was picked up on by the rest of the band, especially Bob Weir.

As lead guitarist, Mayer had to perform the trick of filling in for Garcia when old school Grateful Dead fans might feel a bit protective of their Garcia memories and view any attempt to “out do” Garcia as sacrilege. How to give it your all in that role while respecting the original guy? The answer, for me, was the most surprising thing of all. It seemed, at times, like the band was tapping into the cosmic flow that you sometimes got at the best Grateful Dead shows. There were moments where the music seemed to take control away from the individual band members, like they’d all done the Vulcan mind meld and were playing as a single entity and channeling the music in from some transcendental parallel universe. Right out of the gate they played one of my favorite songs, The Music Never Stopped, and went into an extended deep space jam during the rhythm breakdown, then snapped back into the groove so quick you didn’t hear it coming.

Mayer also did a good job on vocals, especially sharing with Bob Weir on fan favorite Franklin’s Tower. John didn’t try to mimic Jerry on his vocal parts, and that is a good thing not only to avoid the sacrilege problem, but also because Mayer is a vocal stylist in his own right and actually added some nice fresh phrasing that honored the music while adding his own signature to it. Also, there was this interesting thing he started to do toward the end where he was scat singing a la Ella Fitzgerald. It complimented the music really well.

There was also quite a bit of humor in the second set on the outro to The Wheel, with Mayer leading the band into a gently mocking melodic parody of the song itself, until it morphed into something like the soundtrack to a gaggle of clowns hamming it up at a circus. And there was also quite a bit of what I call metamigorbickle improvisation, with the soundscapes becoming so abstract that they differentiate the Grateful Dead from all the other so-called jam bands; pure improvisation without any melodic or rhythmic underpinnings to fall back on.

The other guest musicians were bassist Oteil Burbridge and keyboardist Jeff Chimenti, who also recently performed with the Grateful Dead at their supposed farewell shows. I’d seen Chimenti a few times in other configurations and he was in fine form, but I’d never seen Burbridge. He’s an incredible bass player and filled the void left by original Dead bassist Phil Lesh very well.

The show was so good that it made me wonder what will happen when the rest of the original members retire or pass away. Will this thing actually keep going? With Mayer in the drivers seat I think it’s a real possibility. The question would be whether people would still see the shows, but one interesting thing to consider is that many of the people I spoke with at the show or overheard had never seen the Grateful Dead while Garcia was alive. Think about that a moment. The show was sold out and many of the fans had never even seen Garcia live. The music is still there, coursing through the ether, waiting for someone like Mayer to tap in.

 

 

 

 

Road Trip, Part 4

IMG_2866

I’m getting close to a wrap on this series of posts about my trip to Canada last summer. This photo is of a monumental cowboy sculpture at the Calgary Stampede, which is probably the best known rodeo, or what is otherwise billed by the promoters as “The Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth.” It’s sort of a combination of a rodeo show, a massive county fair and a Canada-centric display of regional pride.

The rodeo itself is a daily competition with the usual events, such as roping and riding, but with one addition that sets it apart from many other such events. The Calgary Stampede includes wagon races, which harken back to the wild west. The wagon races begin with the team, which includes two on the wagon and outriders on horseback, putting away a kettle in the back of the wagon to represent cowboys breaking camp. The wagons then weave around barrels before racing around the perimeter of the rodeo grounds. It’s a charming evocation of rural western culture.

For most people the highlight is the bull riding, which is brutal, impressive and dangerous. I’m quite sure that we saw one young rider suffer a serious shoulder separation getting thrown from a bull. An interesting cultural twist is that some of the best bull riders are from South America, which has a cowboy culture all it’s own.

In the evening there is a stage show with music, dancing and singing. I don’t know if the theme changes each year, but the show we saw was focused entirely on all things Canadian. I actually learned some things about Canada that I didn’t know. For example, which of the four major professional sports was invented by a Canadian? Nope, not hockey. It’s basketball. Ironically, there is only one NBA team in Canada, which is the Toronto Raptors. On the other hand, Canadians represent the second most non-American NBA players in the league. A highlight of the show was the inclusion of aboriginal tribal leaders dressed in traditional costumes. So, cowboys and “indians” all around.

Aside from the rodeo itself, the grounds include lots of other activities you might find at a county fair, and a lot of barbecue. There are several stages with musical acts to keep things lively. It’s definitely worth seeing if you plan on visiting Alberta. A lot of good, clean fun, and a noticeable lack of over-celebration when it comes to alcohol. Oh, and while you’re in Alberta, be sure to go to one of the steak houses. The Alberta beef is fantastic, if you enjoy a good steak.

 

 

The Road Trip, 2

IMG_2838

I took this photo in Glacier National Park, Montana. This is Lake Josephine, in the area of the park called Many Glacier. We were in the park July 9 & 10. The timing was fortuitous because a fire required closure of some areas shortly after we left, including part of Going to the Sun Road. As is so often the case, this photo doesn’t really capture the beauty. My daughter and I agreed that Glacier National Park was a highlight of the trip.

We didn’t have reservations for lodging in the park itself, so instead we stayed nearby in an old school hotel called the Glacier Park Lodge, which opened in 1913. The lodge was constructed by the Great Northern Railroad as part of an effort to bring tourists to the park by train. The rail line still runs right by the hotel. Here’s a photo I took of the lobby.

IMG_2810

Those giant columns that look like tree trunks…are tree trunks. Most of the structural supports are timbers of varying sizes. When we checked into the hotel there were a few details that went unmentioned. For example, there are no televisions in the rooms. Also, no phones. There is wi-fi, but the signal is weak, so if you want to use it you need to go to the public areas. This lack of technology creates a time warp effect and the guests resort to Victorian entertainments like board games, cards, and jigsaw puzzles that are scattered throughout the public areas. Also, many of the guests sit in the public areas and read, or admire the view from the back veranda. For the typical guest who has never been deprived of tech it is jarring at first, but I was surprised at how quickly I adapted to this slower paced environment. It was relaxing and eventually quite charming.

Oh, did I mention that it was Native American week? There was a large pow-wow scheduled in a nearby town, and since the park and the hotel are located on the Blackfoot reservation, no alcohol was served at the hotels and restaurants. So, if you were thinking, well, there’s no TV or internet so I’ll just belly up to the bar and soothe my  tech withdrawal, think again. The old-timey environment and lack of booze combined to make it seem like you might be staying at the Overlook Hotel from The Shining. You’ll recall that Jack Nicholson’s character fell off the wagon chatting it up with the ghost bartender in the hotel lounge. We only stayed at the lodge one night. Then it was on to Canada.

By the way, my apologies for the long absence of posts. I had some things going on that required my full attention for awhile.

Spring Cleaning

IMG_2461

It started with a visit to the tax preparer. I was asked to present certain documents that I thought I had received and knew I had received, but that I’d misplaced, being the single parent that I am. So I went home and searched every nook and cranny. I never found said documents and concluded that I had to embark on an effort to clean up my home office.

Nothing nefarious. It’s just that when you’re hit with the death of your spouse due to illness, there’s a natural tendency to avoid looking at old records because you’re reminded of your married life, which is traumatic; if you loved the person involved at the time of their death, which was the case with me.

I kept stumbling upon stuff that triggered memories. I won’t go into that here.

I’ve spent the last few weeks spending all my free time cleaning out my office and getting rid of dated material. All this paper needed to be shredded; or so I thought; to keep it private; to prevent identity theft; it’s so hard to recognize the line on something like that; it keeps evolving. Anyway, I shredded a lot of stuff. I’ve spent most of my free time doing that the last few weeks, which is why I haven’t posted on this blog.

I think this has larger applications to the population of people who are aged. We may, someday, be visited by some regulatory authority that says we’re out of compliance. I hope to be one of the evaluators rather than the subject under evaluation.

Now I’m blogging about it and wondering if that’s the best way to go. Oh well. I did it to clear out my home office so I wouldn’t feel like a hoarder.

You need to move on from things, and I felt I needed to seal the silver mine as regards the records related to my spouse; who is deceased through no fault of mine, and who I miss terribly every day.

I love you Lisa, if you can hear me. I’ve kept the good stuff.

I’m moving on now.

Love,

Mike

The Cold

IMG_2436

I hadn’t been sick in about five years, which I attribute to a reasonable attempt on my part to stay healthy, but also to good genes. About three weeks ago a co-worker in my work unit developed a bad cold, the most prominent feature of which is chronic coughing. Within a few days two other co-workers came down with what appeared to be the same thing. My work unit had turned into a disease vector.

As the daily absence count mounted and work piled up I became concerned, but knew that my co-workers would come in if they were up to it. One of them ended up in the hospital on oxygen and at that point I knew this was no garden variety cold.

Right about that time I became symptomatic. It started with a headache and a feeling of exhaustion. I went home early, climbed into bed and didn’t emerge until the next morning. That pre-emptive move turned out to be impactful. I was able to go to work the next day, courtesy of DayQuil. After a couple of days my symptoms began to subside, but now it’s a week later and I still have a bit of a cough.

All of this is to explain the absence of posts recently. It’s been work, home, dinner, bed by 9 p.m., so I haven’t had time to write anything. The good news is that I’ve been saving up a bunch of ideas for posts, so the floodgates are about to open.

Thanks to NyQuil and DayQuil for getting me through the past week. I’m almost done with the withdrawal.

Film Review: American Sniper

American Sniper Poster

I went to see the new film American Sniper with my daughter, who’s thirteen. One thing worth mentioning: The theater was very crowded. Not like typical crowded for a popular film; I mean it was exceptional.

It’s rated ‘R’ so I did have some reservations viewing it with my young teenager, given the rating. My guess, after seeing the film with her, is that the ‘R’ rating is due to foul language and extreme violence. There’s also very mild sexual content, but I’ve seen PG-13 films that are more objectionable in that regard.

I’m sorry to say this, but there is no reason to avoid seeing this film with your teenager, if your objection is foul language and extreme violence. All the content that earned American Sniper an ‘R’ rating is likely present in the life of your average thirteen year-old, unless you’ve been very careful as regards parental controls on their electronics, or if you live off the grid.

The film is laced with salty military banter that I would guess is toned down as compared to the actual stream of dialogue among service members. It seems like the producers allow for the foul language and violence in service to the story, which is presented as the autobiography of an American hero and decorated Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle.

If you plan on seeing the film, do yourself a favor and avoid Google searches about his life. Just know that the film is based on his life.

Bradley Cooper portrays a Navy Seal starting a family while serving four tours of duty at the height of America’s military involvement in Iraq.

Cooper’s performance is Oscar-nominated for his portrayal of Chris Kyle. I predict he will win the Oscar for Best Actor (even though I have a bad track record on recent predictions, so I hope I don’t mess it up for him; he deserves it).

There are many scenes in the film that access the emotions of the viewer. Bradley Cooper and director Clint Eastwood treat those moments with admirable, and at times, incredible, delicacy. You never feel like they’re going for cheap tears, because Bradley Cooper disappears into the character.

There were times during my viewing of the film when I focused on the performance of Bradley Cooper in an attempt to avoid or forestall an emotional reaction. Impossible. The actor disappears into the character. I never saw Bradley Cooper on the screen; I only saw Chris Kyle. It was that good.

American Sniper is a mature, intelligent, and formidable effort to portray the United States at war in the aftermath of 9/11, from the perspective of the front line participants. In my opinion, it deserves serious consideration for best film of the year.