All posts by Mike Winder

Mike Winder lives in the game grid of Los Angeles, where he's pieced together quality ruminations on pop culture since 2006. His work has appeared in LA Alternative, Los Angeles CityBeat, L.A. Metblogs, and other fine publications. He studied creative writing at UCLA. He shares his life with his wife, his beautiful daughter, and whoever's tapped his landline.

Who will defend Los Angeles from the budget cuts?

An article from this morning’s Times touches on the “annihilating cuts” that will soon hit cities across California, including our fair lady Los Angeles.

Mayor Villaraigosa, who thinks Governor Schwarzenegger plans to balance the state’s books “on the backs” of local government, is quoted as saying, “I for one will not sit idly by while this process runs its course.”

Which, for some reason, made me think of this.

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And for those of you without Flash, that’s the first few scenes of The Omega Man.

Hey, Californians! Everything is going to be alright.

chancellor In case you missed the news this morning, Californians have thrown in the proverbial towel.

As we all brace for draconian cuts and pray for somebody to save us from ourselves, I’ll take comfort in this late ’90s Shawn Mullins ditty.

Come to think of it, I wonder why this tune didn’t appear on our recent Songs about Los Angeles project?

Oh, yeah, because it sucks.

[UPDATE: Apparently, embedding the video has been disabled by request. So to take it’s visual place, here’s a pic of the next Supreme Chancellor of
California using some of his new executive powers.]

Martians invade! Dinosaurs attack! World economy stabilizes!

invader_300 Okay, I made that last one up. But now that I have your attention, I’m going to get straight to the point.

Starting tonight, and continuing through Sunday, at the Skirball Cultural Center, L.A. Theatre Works wraps up a 22-city, seven-month national tour of their Sci-Fi (no, not “SyFy” you numbskulls) radio drama double bill of H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds–originally performed by Orson Welles’ Mercury Theatre of the Air in 1938–and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World (no relation to this) with a live recording for their nationally syndicated show.

And if a chance to hear what L.A. Theatre Works calls “the mothership of all space invasions” coupled with a time travel adventure set in the “time of dinosaurs and cave men” isn’t enough for you, tonight (and tonight only) you can catch an interview with Leonard “I Am Spock” Nimoy following the performance. Perhaps if you’re lucky, they’ll leave room for a Q&A and you can finally ask Mr. Nimoy to clear the air concerning his singing career.

Photo by magnusw via Flickr.

Do the Write Thing: PlayWriteGirl at Pasadena Playhouse this Sunday

girl_typewriter If I hear one more report about the swine flu, the stumbling economy or the diminished box-office expectations for X-Men Origins: Wolverine, I might just do something drastic. Like blog about it.

But wait, what’s this? Don’t scroll down yet! Someone’s answered my desperate plea.

WriteGirl and Pasadena Playhouse are teaming up this Sunday at 6 p.m. for a benefit performance called PlayWriteGirl. The event will feature scenes and monologues written by teen girls and performed by actors like Angela Bassett (ER), Kate Flannery (The Office) and JoBeth Williams (Dexter).

But what makes this event really special? The works they’ll be reading will be pieces created earlier that day–the result of professional women writers of all genres mentoring 150 aspiring writers.

Think of it as a creative stimulus package. Or as immunization against the doldrums. Or, well, you get the idea. Just support a good cause, okay?

Photo: Girls love writing. Courtesy of Paul-W via Flickr.

Songs about Los Angeles: “Que Onda Guero” by Beck

beck_300 One of my favorite things about working at the Getty Center during my twenties was being able to walk over to the Museum’s West Pavilion, go up the stairs to the “post-structuralist” gallery and simply stare in awe at James Ensor’s Christ’s Entry into Brussels in 1889. Anytime I damn well felt like it.

I know this isn’t an art history blog, and I’m certainly no Sister Wendy, but let me just say that for reasons similar to why I love Ensor’s masterpiece–the colorful chaos of the Mardi Gras party it depicts, Ensor’s irreverence in portraying himself as the central Christ figure, the juxtaposition of tragedy with comedy– I also dig Beck’s “Que Onda Guero” (listen) from his 2005 album Guero.

Image: Beck in concert. Photo by Scott Beale / Laughing Squid.

Continue reading Songs about Los Angeles: “Que Onda Guero” by Beck

Songs about L.A.: “People of the Sun” by Rage Against the Machine

rage_2007_300 Since I had pale skin, no accent, and my only interests were Star Wars, Weird Al and Nintendo, the kids I grew up with had no idea I was half Mexican. Unless I told them. And really, as a child growing up in Modesto, a then largely white town in California’s San Joaquin Valley, why would I do that? No, for a number of reasons, I learned it was easier to simply keep my mouth shut and observe.

But that got old real fast, and eventually my bottled anger needed an outlet. Which brings me to one of my favorite songs about Los Angeles, Rage Against the Machine’s “People of the Sun” (audio / video). The song that kicks off Rage’s sophomore album Evil Empire (1996) begins with one of Tom Morello’s most unusual guitar riffs (created by scraping the A and E strings with an Allen wrench) and is followed by singer Zack de la Rocha’s opening lyrics:

Since fifteen hundred and sixteen
Minds attacked and overseen
Now crawl amidst the ruins
Of this empty dream
With their borders and boots
On top of us
Pulling knobs on the floor
Of their toxic metropolis

Now, hold on a second, you’re thinking. 1516? Wasn’t Los Angeles founded in 1781?

Continue reading Songs about L.A.: “People of the Sun” by Rage Against the Machine

Paging Dr. Schadenfreude: Open Projector Night at the Hammer

projector_300 Shhh! Don’t tell Dennis Woodruff, but this Thursday night (7/9) at 6:30 pm the Hammer is hosting what they’re calling Open Projector Night.

Hosted by comedian Jason Sklar, the free event will consist of individuals presenting their short films (10 minutes or less) and letting the audience decide how much should be screened.

The Hammer describes the evening as “a cross between open mic night and the Gong Show for locally made film and video shorts” and warn that audiences should “expect rowdiness to ensue.”

First come, first served sign ups start at 6:00 p.m.

This is the perfect opportunity to dash somebody’s hopes and dreams. And just in time for Easter!

Image by libraryman via Flickr.

Tweet the Dust: Celebrate author John Fante tonight at the Hammer


@LAMetblogs Or would he, like @ghidorah76 and many others, find the fastest means to literary poverty is writing in 140 characters or less?

@LAMetblogs Do you think Bandini could get as many followers as @aplusk or @britneyspears or @johncmayer?

@LAMetblogs Imagine what Fante’s literary alter ego Arturo Bandini could have accomplished if only he had signed up for a Twitter account.

@LAMetblogs Wonder how many aspiring writers will be at the Fante event tonight? How many who just can’t resist that siren call of poverty?

@LAMetblogs 3 years ago, Slate ran a great piece on Fante when Towne’s adaptation of “Ask the Dust” hit theaters.

@LAMetblogs Fante was not recognized in his day. He’s barely recognized now. Charles Bukowski was a fan. Ditto for film scribe Robert Towne.

@LAMetblogs Fante’s work explored poverty, the immigrant experience, and the harsh reality that aspiring writers will face in our city.

@LAMetblogs Tomorrow is LA writer John Fante’s 100th birthday. Tonight, Zocalo at the Hammer will celebrate.

@LAMetblogs “So fuck you, Los Angeles, fuck your palm trees, and your highassed women, and your fancy streets, for I am going home.” – Fante

Image: Author John Fante and the Fail Whale.

“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies” author signs tonight at BookSoup

austen_zombies What more needs to be said about Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a novel that describes itself as “an expanded edition of the beloved Jane Austen novel featuring all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie mayhem?”

Well, okay, one of its co-authors will be signing the novel tonight at Book Soup. Yeah, I guess that needs to be said.

Co-written by Jane Austen, the very dead author of Sense and Sensibility and Mansfield Park, and Seth Grahame-Smith, the not-yet-dead author of The Big Book of Porn: A Penetrating Look at the World of Dirty Movies and Pardon My President: Ready-to-Mail Apologies for 8 Years of George W. Bush, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies takes the beloved 19th century snoozefest and supersizes the drama by having Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy battle a bloodthirsty army of the undead.

Looking for a cheap thrill, Snagglepuss? You can read the first three chapters complimentarily. Sans mullah. Gratis. For free, even!

But for Pete’s sake, go out and buy a copy or two. These days, supporting real literatoor is more important than ever.

Fools! Switching off your lights won’t save you from The Wolf Man: American Cinematheque screens classic Lon Chaney, Jr. film tonight

wolfman_300You thought you were doing the planet a favor by switching off your lights for Earth Hour, right?

Turns out all you really did was make it easier for the werewolves of Griffith Park to sneak into our neighborhoods under the cover of darkness.

Now, instead of enjoying your usual lazy Sunday routine — idling in your car, running your leafblower and then teasing your lhasa apso’s coat with aerosol hairspray — you’re going to have to stock up on rye bread from Trader Joe’s and pray to Jesus that Big 5 still has some silver bullets in stock.

If you can somehow make it safely into Hollywood by 5:30 pm, try to take shelter in the Egyptian Theatre, where the American Cinematheque will be screening The Wolf Man, the 1941 horror classic that stars Lon Chaney, Jr. as your friendly neighborhood lycanthrope. The Wolf Man and Norman Jewison’s apparently werewolf-free Gaily, Gaily (1969) are being presented as as part of an Art Director’s Society tribute to Robert Boyle.

And for God’s sake, turn your lights back on already!

Image: Lon Cheney, Jr. is The Wolf Man.

Straight Outta Zhengzhou: Shaolin Monks at the Pacific Asia Museum

shaolinKung fu fans, rejoice!

No, RZA hasn’t updated his Afro Samurai vlog.

Tomorrow night, the Pacific Asia Museum in Pasadena is welcoming the Venerable Abbot Shi Yong Xin of China’s Shaolin Temple. The abbot is bringing with him a group of monks for a seminar and, you guessed it, kung fu demonstration.

Here’s a flyer that explains how to buy tickets.

What’s the occasion? Shaolin Temple USA just opened a brand new cultural center in San Francisco, so the abbot is in California for the grand opening festivities. With his Bay Area tour finished, he’s now spreading Shaolin love to the Southland.

Founded in 495 A.D. by the Indian dhyana master Buddhabhadra, the Shaolin Temple rests in the Song Shan foothills of China’s Henan province (50 miles outside of Zhengzhou), and is the birthplace of both Zen Buddhism and Shaolin kung fu.

Not bad for a scrappy little temple, eh?

Images: A Shaolin monk in action (top, photo by fab to pix) and statues of monks at the Shaolin temple outside of Zhengzhou (bottom, photo by Galvez).

Science Grrrl: Photograph 51 opens tonight at the Fountain Theatre

photo51Starting tonight and running through May 3, the Fountain Theatre is presenting the West Coast premiere of Anna Ziegler’s scientific smackdown of a play, Photograph 51, directed by Simon Levy.

In this corner, with a combined total of two X chromosomes and two Y chromosomes, are molecular biologists James D. Watson (Ian Gould) and Francis Crick (Kerby Joe Grubb), the duo whom history has dubbed the discoverers of deoxyribonucleic acid — or DNA if you’re into the whole brevity thing.

And in this corner, with a total of two X chromosomes, is English biophysicist and X-ray crystallographer Rosalind Franklin (Aria Alpert), whose X-ray diffraction images were used by Watson and Crick to formulate their hypothesis.

So, what’s the major malfunction? Rather than receiving credit as a co-founder of DNA, Franklin’s
findings were simply viewed as evidence that supported Watson and Crick’s hypothesis.

Among the questions the production raises are whether Franklin was relegated to history’s footnote because she was a woman and whether Watson and Crick stole Franklin’s data and took all the glory.

No fair looking up the answers!

Anna Ziegler recently won the third annual STAGE (Scientists, Technologists and Artists Generating Exploration) award for Best New Play about Science and Technology for this play.

Image: Graham Norris and Aria Alpert in Photograph 51. Photo by Ed Krieger.

Brother from Another Planet to land in Westwood tomorow night

brother_300Years before actor Joe Morton became inextricably linked to Terminator 2‘s Miles Bennett Dyson, he gained acclaim for his role in John Sayles’ Brother From Another Planet (1984). That film, along with Sayles’ directorial debut, The Return of the Secaucus 7 (1980), screens tomorrow night at the Hammer as part of UCLA Film and Television Archive’s 14th Annual Festival of Preservation.

In Brother from Another Planet, Morton plays a mute intergalactic runaway slave, known only as “The Brother,” who crash-lands at Ellis Island and makes his way over to Harlem. Though he’s able to earn a living fixing machinery by simply touching it, his American dream is interrupted when bounty hunters from his home planet arrive on the scene.

Still not sold? Forget the cheesy trailer and the silly tagline (“Welcome to a world of crude beauty. Of danger and excitement. Of wonders, legend and imagination. Welcome to Harlem, Brother.”) and just trust that Mr. Sayles knows a thing or two about making damn good movies.

Images: Still photos from Brother From Another Planet (top) and Return of the Secaucus 7 (bottom). Courtesy of UCLA Film and Television Archive.

At the Hammer: Filmmaker Kenneth Anger on Aleister Crowley

crowleyMiiiiissssssssstah Croooowleeeeeey,
What went down in your head?
Ohhhh, Miiiiisssssstahhh Croooowleeeeeey,
Did you talk to the dead?

Oh, I’m sorry, I didn’t realize I was writing a post.

This Thursday night, the Hammer is presenting a free lecture called Do What Thou Wilt: Kenneth Anger on Aleister Crowley and the Occult. Apparently the avant-garde filmmaker once dabbled in Crowley’s Thelema religion, and many of his films actually reference the occult.

This event complements the Hammer’s Houseguest series, which invites artists to curate a show based on the diverse collections of the University of California, Los Angeles. This time around, LA-based artist Francesca Gabbiani gave it a whirl and wound up exploring sorcery and witchcraft.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a serious air-guitar solo to get back to.

Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Randy Rhoads!