Thursday, October 31, 2013

An East Valley Weekend Guide

For this week’s post, instead of pontificating about life and death, here’s some immediately useful information. Here is a great San Fernando Valley weekend, great for kids and adults alike, and especially fun for people visiting from out town. You’ll feel like you’re indulging; yet it’s easy on the pocketbook. Most of the costs are for eating out at restaurants. And you don’t have to go into Los Angeles for any of it!

            Start at Pit Fire Pizza in North Hollywood -- it’s at the corner of Magnolia and Lankershim Boulevards. It has great pizza, good beer and wine, and you can eat around the outdoor dining pit. They have an outdoor DJ spinning on Friday evenings, and since this is in the heart of the NoHo arts district-----you’ll see dancers, actors and musicians strolling to their different classes or rehearsals.

            Afterwards, cross the street and head to the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences theater building, just a bit further up on Lankershim Blvd. You’ll see the giant Emmy fountain and life-size statues of different TV greats, from Johnny Carson to Sid Caesar.  This only takes ten minutes, and it’s surreal. Have someone snap a photo of you talking to a bronze version of Lucille Ball.

            If you want dessert and coffee accompanied by music, head East on Magnolia and you’ll find Republic of Pie. It’s crowded and noisy on a weekend night, but the pie and coffee are great and they have live music on Fridays. Their pecan pie is the best.

            However, if the evening is warm, go instead to the Bob’s Big Boy Restaurant in Toluca Lake, on Riverside Boulevard. On Friday nights they have a classic car show, and you will see cars from the 30’s through the 70’s, old classics, Caddies, muscle cars, kit cars, and homage Rat Fink roadsters. It’s a great people mix of old surfers in Hawaiian print shirts, young rockabilly types and low riders. This is classic Americana, and people from out of town always love it. If you want to eat there, don’t wait for a table, just grab a seat at the counter. Their vanilla milkshakes are great.

            Wake up early. If you like old style diners, eat breakfast at Du-par’s in Studio City. They’ve been around since 1938, although the built they one in the Valley in the 1960’s. They are famous for their fluffy pancakes and their pies. Gooseberry is the best.

            Now the weekend is really beginning, and it’s only 9 a.m.
            Put on your hiking boots, sunscreen, glasses and hat, fill a water bottle and a day back, and then hop in the car and drive West on the 101 Freeway. Be on the road by 9 a.m.; take the Las Virgenes exit and head towards Malibu. You are entering Malibu Canyon, which is one of the most picturesque roads in all of Southern California.  Roll down the windows, drive through the canyon and enjoy the rolling hills. Look right and you’ll see Malibu State Park, which is worth exploring, but on a different weekend. The rolling California hills end as you reach the Malibu mountains, where you’ll see cliffs as dramatic as anywhere in Italy. Far below you is Malibu Creek. There are several turn out spots, but check those out on the way back.

            Once you reach the Pacific Coast Highway, make a right, head north and enjoy the Pacific Ocean views until you reach Corral Canyon Road. Make a right. Most people stop and hike in Solstice Canyon, which is at the bottom. Instead, keep driving up Corral Canyon to the very top of the mountain. It’s a steep road, and it will take ten minutes to get to the top and you’ll pass a few dozen homes. Just when you think you’ve made a wrong turn, the paved road will end. Keep going for another 200 yards and you’ll find a parking lot. You have found a spur of the Backbone Trail, which runs along the top of the entire Malibu Mountain Range, from Will Rogers State Park at one end to Point Mugu at the other, 68 miles total.  Each section of the trail, from trailhead to trailhead, is 3 to 5 miles, making your overall hike 6 to 10 miles.

            The Corral Canyon section is one of the best. If you head north of the trail you drop down into a lush finger valley with thick trees, a gurgling stream and even a small waterfall. Or, from the parking lot you can head South and hike out in the open. This section of the Backbone Trail brings you past huge sandstone rocks, with amazing views down into Malibu Canyon, and then further along you reach a wide open trail surrounded by tall grass and California Oak trees and you’ll get a fantastic view of the Pacific Ocean below you. I’ve hiked there many times and rarely see anyone. It’s quiet and you are so high up the ocean looks tilted.

NOTE: The hike in this direction is a long one, and leads all the way back to Malibu Canyon, so you might not want to do the whole hike unless you have all day.
Once you are done, head into Malibu and eat at The Malibu Country Store.  They serve great meatloaf sandwiches. Now head back to the Valley.

            Next, you need to relax. Check out Luck Puppy on Ventura Boulevard in Studio City, where they let you play with the rescued dogs that are waiting to be adopted. Most of them just want a lap to sit on, and it’s great stress relief for anyone. You can also take a dog for a walk! If it does its business and you clean up, they’ll give you a free volunteer t-shirt. You have to sign a waiver before you play with the dogs, and it’s nice to give a donation.  I consider it cheap babysitting, which is why I donate.

            Or, if you’re feeling more artistic, make your way to Kit Kraft in Studio City, on Ventura Place.  It’s more expensive than larger art stores, like Michaels, but they do have everything in a much smaller space. You can buy model airplanes, spools of lanyard strips, modeling clay, glue guns, temporary tattoos and rock tumblers. There is always a cheap deal on display at the counter that’s worth checking out. Last week I bought a wooden pinwheel that we are painting and shellacking for our front garden.

            Its dinnertime! Head over to LA LA’s Argentine Grill on Ventura Blvd. They have a multitude of steaks, but I suggest the grilled chicken. Or, if you are feeling bold, the blood sausage is great and so are the sweetbreads. If you are going to eat animals, eat the whole animal. They have great Argentinean beer, red wine and fantastic French fries.

            On Sunday, Ventura Place in Studio City is blocked off for the Farmer’s Market. Park a few blocks away and walk, or just ride your bike or scooter. They have great fresh tamales and fresh juices, which is a perfect breakfast. You can buy fresh produce to cook for lunch or dinner, and you can get your groceries for the week. There’s a good French bakery stand, a mushroom stand that’s amazing, and Secret Squirrel Cold Pressed Coffee. They also have good florists. Look for the special plants called “Chinese Lanterns.”

            If it’s after 12 noon, warm and sunny, grab a swimsuit and a towel and head to the Van Nuys-Sherman Oaks Swimming Pool. It costs $2.00 if you have a Los Angeles Library card.  This is one of the only 50-meter pools in Los Angeles. They have a five-meter tower, two three-meter and two one-meter diving boards. Jump off the five -meter platform once, and you’ll be hooked. Want a diving lesson? In spring and summer, there’s often an instructor giving tips to kids and adults as they line up for the one-meter board.  LA84 is an endowment from the profitable Los Angeles Olympics that still pays for sports instruction for youth 30 years later, and they’re still paying for diving and swimming instructors. I learned a front 1 ½ dive from an LA84 instructor.
           Now it’s about 4 p.m. on Sunday. 
            Go home.
            Read the paper, or a good book.
            Do your Kit Kraft Art Project
            Ride a Bike
            Have friends over and cook the food you bought.
All this can be done for less that $200 for the weekend, for a family of three. Eliminate the restaurants (my favorite indulgence) and it drops to well under $100.
            Pit Fire                        $50.00
            Classic Car Show            Free
            Dessert                        $10.00
            Dupar’s                        $20
            Gas to the hike            $10
            Malibu Store                        $20.00
            Lucky Puppy                        $10 donation             OR
            Kit Kraft Deal                        $10
            Kit Kraft                        $10 (for lanyards or current deal)
            LA LAs                        $50 (buy organs)
            Tamales                        $10
            Fresh Produce            (this is variable, counts as groceries, so not included)
            Pool Fee                        $6
Growing up in San Francisco, I learned buy osmosis to have disdain for Los Angeles. When I moved to Los Angeles, I learned to have disdain for the San Fernando Valley. I hope the disdain continues, so I can continue to have my quiet blissful weekends, far from the madding crowds.


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Thursday, October 24, 2013

Memento Mori...Why I love Halloween

I love Halloween in Southern California for two reasons.
                The first is the weather. In Southern California the weather is still nice enough at the end of October that you can be outside in flimsy costumes after sunset without getting cold. Further north or east, children have to wear parkas over their costumes and dodge ice on the sidewalks when they go trick-or-treating, which defeats the purpose of wearing a costume in the first place. A wizard wearing a parka is dumb, and I remember preferring to freeze rather than sully the presentation of my alternate persona  with a layer of winter clothing.
            Halloween is also the only American holiday on which you open your door to strangers. If you are lucky enough to live in a neighborhood in which Halloween is popular, like mine, the doors not only swing open, it’s warm enough that they stay open, and we are often invited inside for more food, drink and fun, and we actually socialize with neighbors.

            Thanksgiving and Christmas are family holidays -- the streets are quiet as people nestle in for quiet times away from the world. Independence Day, Labor Day, and Memorial Day may have parades, but by mid-day they end up becoming barbecues to which you need an invitation. Halloween brings neighbors together.
                   When Lily becomes too old to trick-or-treat, we will transform our own home into the same kind of open house, half party and half way station where parents can rest their legs, adjust costumes, and eat, drink and laugh before the kids demand that they hit the streets again to gather more candy. 
            The vast parking lots of So-Cal are also put to good use on All Hallow’s Eve. If your neighborhood isn’t ideal for trick-or-treating, you can pay and bring your kids to a “Trunk-or-Treat” event. You park your car, decorate it, and the kids hit dozens of cars for candy instead of homes. It doesn’t feel that odd, since your car is your second home when you live in California.

            The other reason I like a SoCal Halloween is that it’s imbued with a gentler reminder of Death. Let’s face it, Death is an important part of Halloween, yet it seems less threatening here. Autumn has no biting cold wind, and as the daylight dwindles down the sunsets are red and gold, and bright colors are still everywhere. 
            The Mexican holiday, Dia de Los Muertos, or Day of the Dead, is November 2nd, but it seeps into American Halloween here in the West, with bright colorful skulls and dancing skeletons in sombreros. Stories with Ichabod Crane and Rip Van Winkle are still told at Halloween, but they belong to distant New England with its stormy dark forests.

            As a child, seeing the happy skeletons and the colorful skulls appear just as the leaves were changing colors and falling from the trees made my own eventual demise more tolerable and understandable. Everything dies; it’s not such a bad thing. It’s what you do with your life that matters.

            The skulls and skeletons also remind me of the Latin phrase Memento Mori -- remember that you die. The Romans used this phrase to remind one another of the briefness of life, and that death makes us all equal. In ancient Rome they would print MM at the end of certain streets as a reminder to young and old, rich and poor that we are all just people. Death is coming, so remember to live life each day to it’s fullest. By honoring death, you thus honor life. The flip side of Memento Mori lis Carpe Diem ... seize the day. This is the day that God hath made, rejoice and be glad in it.
            The Day of the Dead ... Memento Mori.

            I have always been drawn to the Memento Mori paintings from the Renaissance, in which a young man or woman contemplates a flower, a skull, and an hour glass. Life, death, and the passage of time.
            I therefore mark the passage of time in October, right at Halloween. I think back an remember what costumes our family wore in previous years -- the Addams Family, Wizard of Oz, Alice in Wonderland, and Gypsy Fortune Tellers. I open drawers and find clothes I haven’t worn since Autumn last year. I find my father’s old watch and put it on again, to remind me of things past. This moment is here, now it’s passing, this moment is here, but now it’s passing. As the seconds tick and the years pile up, I am faced with the truth that I no longer have the time to pursue every goal, or the time to delay my long-standing dreams much longer. It’s now or never.
            Memento Mori. Carpe Diem. No regrets, no fear.
            Some people reassess their lives this way at New Years, some do it on their birthdays. I am always asleep on New Year’s Eve, and my birthday is in May, when the world is fresh and my life is full and busy. Life slows down now enough for me to see it. Autumn and Halloween hold golden light and warm evenings, with running children and laughter and costumes and hot food and deep glasses of wine with good friends, and I ponder with gratitude how I got here and what I still can accomplish before I shed my own mortal coil.
            Lily and I are making our own Day of the Dead skull. It’s paper-mache, and we’re painting it with bright colors, flowers, hearts, and covering it with glitter. For Lily it is a fun Halloween art project that reassures her that skulls aren’t scary. For me, it will become my own Memento Mori, and I will draw MM on the side.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Kid Culture

My daughter Lily and her friends spend their time at recess singing songs and doing clapping games.

Here’s her current favorite. They sing ABC by the Jackson 5, but only for the first three lines, and then it becomes a rap done in tandem with an elaborate clapping pattern:

A,B,C, it's easy as 1, 2, 3,
My mommy takes care of me,
My daddy says, ooh aah, I want of piece of pie,
Pie too sweet, I want a piece of meat,
Meat too tough, I want to ride a bus,
Bus too full I want to ride a bull,
Bull too black, I want my money back,
Money too green, I want a jelly bean,
Jelly bean too red, I want to go to bed,
Bed not made, I want some lemonade,
Lemonade too sour, I want to take a shower,
Shower too cold, I want a piece of gold,
Gold to shiny, I want to kick your hiney,
Hiney too smelly, I want a bowl of jelly,
Now count to ten with your eyes closed,

(At this point you must do the complicated clapping pattern with your eyes closed,
and if you mess up, you must start over again.)


Watching her perform these chants makes me realize that she lives in a separate culture to mine, a “ kid culture” to which I once belonged years ago, but forgot about --

-- until she sings a piece of “kid culture” that I remember from my own childhood, and a buried memory will surface and become vivid and alive again. It’s another reason I love being a parent; as I witness my daughter move through childhood, I will glimpse something that sends me time traveling back to the West Portal schoolyard and I am suddenly eight years old again, like her.

I remember one song that the girls used to sing to taunt the boys. It starts with the word “boys,” but the girls would insert the first name of any boy they liked enough to harass:

Boys are made of greasy grimey gopher guts,
Mutilated monkey feet,
Itty bitty birdy feet,
French fried eyeballs,
Swimming in a pool of blood,
Gee, I forgot my spoon!

My wife Robin, who grew up in Sherman Oaks, California, sang the same rhyme. She remembers it differently, however, and insists that the correct phrase is “chopped up monkey meat.”  Maybe both are correct and are regional variations of the same song.

Robin was thrilled when Lily came home knowing this next classic, which she’d forgotten about. It started long before Robin was a child and it is still being passed down, girl to girl, through the years.

Miss Mary Mack Mack Mack
All Dressed in Black Black Black
With Silver Buttons, Buttons, Buttons,
All down her back, back, back,
She asked her mother, mother, mother,
For Fifty cents cents cents
To see the elephant, elephant, elephant
Jump over the fence, fence, fence,
He jumped so high, high, high,
He touched the sky, sky, sky,
And he never came back back back
until the 4th of July, lie, lie…
NO, YOU LIE!  (you both stop clapping and then point at each other)

What defines culture?  A culture, whether it’s French, or Swahili, is a group that shares the same songs, games, jokes, art, fashion and cuisine. What Lily and her friends are doing qualifies as culture, especially when you throw in the lanyards, rainbow loom wrist bands and the cootie catchers (fashion and art work) that they create for themselves.

And no adults are involved; kids always teach other kids, and they pass their culture down through the generations, while the original “authors” or “creators” of these works are usually lost to history.

My own crowning creative achievement was learning how to make a switchblade out of popsicle sticks and rubber bands, and then sharpening the wooden tip by filing down the edges on the playground asphalt. Gary Nakamura taught me how -- eat four Orange Creamsicles at lunch and save the sticks, get four rubbers bands, and get busy.
I showed Robin how to make a popsicle stick switchblade early in our dating, and I believe it was the reason she fell in love with me. She knew that I was still a kid at heart, and that I would enjoy having kids.
The Internet and Youtube is changing this, however. Now kids can learn the same game that other kids are playing across the country, and even around the world.

“The Cups Song,” is the perfect example of this. This is another popular game and song that all the girls are doing on the schoolyard.  As you sing the song, you play the “cup game” at the same time -- either alone, in pairs, or in larger and larger groups. Here are the lyrics, which I’m sure you’ve heard:

I got my ticket for the long way round
Two bottles of whiskey for the way
And i sure would like some sweet company
And I’m leaving tomorrow
What do you say?

When I’m gone
When I’m gone
You’re going to miss me when I’m gone
You’re going to miss me by my hair
You’re going to miss me everywhere
Oh, you’re going to miss me when I’m gone.

The song “When I’m Gone” was written in the 1930s by one of the Carter sisters and the cup game that kids play is decades older, but the two were paired together in a movie from 2012 called Pitch Perfect, starring Anna Kendricks, and it became a radio hit.
Lily never saw the movie, nor did we. However, after first learning the song and game on the playground, she perfected it by watching “how to” videos on Youtube. I walked into my office one day and found her at the computer watching a video of a young girl from Atlanta teaching other kids how to play the game. Kid Culture has gone viral.
It all comes full circle this weekend, when I teach my daughter how to make a popsicle stick switch blade. I just checked, and there’s a how to video for it on the Internet.

Kid Culture is alive and well.

"Cups (When I'm Gone)" is a song popularized by American actress Anna Kendrick from the film Pitch Perfect. The basic song, "When I'm Gone", was written by A. P. Carter[ and recorded by the Carter Family in 1931. After it was revived in 2009 by the band Lulu and the Lampshades combining it with the Cup game and a further 2011 viral video by Anna Burden, Anna Kendrick recorded the song that proved to be a hit in the United States and internationally.
The cup game (which goes with the song) is a children's clapping game that involves tapping and hitting a plastic or styrofoam cup using a defined rhythm. The game can be played by many players and is often played in large groups. Each player possesses a cup and in unison the players tap out the defined rhythm using their cups. When a player makes an error playing the rhythm, that player must drop out of the game. Game play continues until only one player remains.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow

This California Bull blog post is about the new Affordable Care Act, and how it will affect California.  But first, let’s examine this amazing photograph!
            This photo was taken in the early 1960’s at a Christmas party for the young staffers at Boston General Hospital. The man is either a medical intern or a resident, and the women are probably nurses or wives, although it’s possible that one of them is an intern or resident as well.
            I love this photo because it captures both their world and the world of the early 1960s so well -- the era celebrated in TV shows like Mad Men.  We watch, amazed and shocked at how we once were, while also waxing nostalgic for the mid-century style of an expanding and influential America.
            Notice the peeling paint and wallpaper on the wall behind them -- this is not some fancy ballroom, this is a student social hall. And the piece of round metal on the right hand side of the photo -- what is that? A water or coffee dispenser?  Nowadays it would be made by Igloo, or Rubbermaid, but that steam-punk cylinder comes from before the age of plastic. There’s probably no plastic anywhere in that room, except maybe some costume jewelry on a few women’s wrists.
            But let’s talk about what the photo is really about: the amazing style of the four people posing. Everyone is in their mid-20s, they’re working 80 hours a week and they have no money probably, yet they look fantastic. Granted, it’s one photo at one Christmas party, but if the same party were happening today, everyone would be in scrubs and Ugg boots, and their hair would still be wet from their shower.  They’d still be struggling, only they’d each also have s cell-phone and a massive debt in student loans.
            My favorite outfit and hairstyle is on the girl on the left.  Her harlequin print dress goes up to her neck and down to wrists so no skin shows, yet it still shows off her figure.  Her hair is also pinned perfectly with a little curl on the forehead.  I also like the next woman in blue, and how she manages to hold her black clutch in the crook of her right arm while not spilling the drink she’s holding.
            The guy is cool and casual -- the girls all have cocktails, but he does not. He saves his hands for cradling two women at the same time, claiming both, yet claiming neither. My dad, who comes from that era, told me that if someone wants to snap your picture, put your drink down first, especially if it’s a beer. It will always make you look smarter in photos. This guy knows my dad’s rules and has a few of his own.
            I also love that he’s wearing all grey -- grey suit, grey tie, grey pocket square, and a perfect square haircut to top it all off. He looks crisp and elegant in a simple suit, probably the only one he owns. 
            Our country was expanding then, all things seemed possible, and these young people have eyes full of promise. Now, 50 years later, young people who are the same age as the young professionals in this photo can’t find jobs that earn enough money to live on their own, so they’re moving back in with their parents.  Forty percent of them, in fact.  They are college educated, the best and the brightest we have, and their futures are nowhere near as promising as they were 50 years ago. 
            If that Christmas party were happening this year, there would be gender equality among both the doctors and the nurses, and more racial equality.  However, today’s doctors and nurses all face long hours of work to pay off all the debt they have racked up in student loans, some in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. If that were my reality, I’d show up in Ugg boots and scrubs as well.
            Being a physician in the 1960s was a ticket to upper middle class freedom, where your training and expertise could make you a stake holder. Now, being a doctor, especially a specialist, means twenty years of school work and debt before you see a payoff.  Over the past fifteen years, smart ambitious people have gone into technology or investment banking and hedge funds, because the pay-off was in five years, not twenty. We need more smart people going into medicine again, but right now it’s an expensive crap shoot for everyone.
            As the Affordable Care Act takes effect, I support it, both for the patients and for the doctors. Yes, even the doctors. I know this is coming, because overall costs will go down, for everyone. I look to Western Europe and Singapore, where a hip replacement costs $15,000, not $150,000, health care is less than 10% of GDP, yet the doctors are still well-paid and respected, and there is still an incentive to innovate and create.             Let’s use my family as an example for the patient side. We have some health issues, and we pay 1/4 of what we earn in some kind of health insurance or health care, and 1/4 of our professional time managing that health care, which includes fighting incomprehensible billing or shopping for better deals. On the physician side, most young doctors will spend a 1/4 of their income in the first ten years of practice paying off the debt they incurred. All of us would benefit from cutting our health care costs in half, and then putting the money we saved back into the economy.
            That’s what the Affordable Care Act will do for me, and I can spend money on improving my business. Innovation. Research. Improvement. Infrastructure. Education. Taking a risk. Then we will expand and grow again, like we did 50 years ago. I am already planning ways to spend the money I am going to save -- and it’s going to help the whole state.
            California will show the way, for we are the new and true bellwether state.
            What does this photo mean to you?
            Do you know any of the people?
            Will you be enjoying the benefits of the new Affordable Care Act?

Thursday, October 3, 2013

I want my MTV?????

I want to start a music video company. 
            I want to hire music video directors and put them on staff, hire creative department heads, get equipment and start cranking out videos for Head Bangers Ball and for Yo! MTV Raps.  Maybe Warner Bros. Records will hire me to do a video with a major artist like Sting or Madonna, and get paid $200,000 to make a four minute music video.  That’s the ticket.  Then once I’m in the door, I can grow my company so that it’s as big a company as Palomar Pictures, or Propaganda.   Once there, it’s an easy hop to producing and directing commercials, and then creating a feature division and start doing movies. But my bread and butter will come from the constant stream of music videos I will produce.  I can crank them out better and faster than anyone, and every music group or artist needs one.
            As outdated as that sounds, that was how UCLA Film School fellow graduates and early career colleagues of mine talked in the early 1990’s.  Then, Bunim Murray Productions created a show called The Real World, and MTV stopped being about music videos, and a mini-industry died.  When was the last time you saw a music video on regular TV, not on Youtube?  It’s crazy how much things change in twenty years.
            Now what do you think when I write this?
            I want to start a TV production company. 
            Specifically, I want to start a TV production company and create content for all those cable channels.  Ten years ago, that didn’t seem like such a crazy statement.  Six years ago, just before the economic downturn and just before the first iPhone came out, it still wasn’t a crazy statement.  Today, saying you want to start a TV production company for cable is now as crazy as saying you want to start a music video company.

            So much has changed. Remember Sting singing “I want my MTV,” all in high notes?  That drove more people to get basic cable and start shelling out $30, then $45 and then $85 a month for cable TV to get hundred channels and endless choice, most of it bad.  But people like their trashy shows, mixed in with some quality, and they love sports, lots of sports, and with that, cable TV exploded.  I remember HBO trying to stand out from the crowd by promoting themselves as being a step above -- “It’s not TV.  It’s HBO.”  They took flak for that (it is TV), but I paid $85 a month to get The Sopranos, just like everybody else.
Yet this was in the Motley Fool a few weeks back:
Comcast’s $2.2 Trillion Nightmare
Imagine what cable companies would do if everyone stopped watching...

Well, after some number-crunching, The Motley Fool determined that industry big wigs like Comcast would lose $2.2 trillion! And tech moguls like Apple and Google are convinced that Comcast’s nightmare scenario is approaching faster than you think...

Experts are calling it "The Death of Cable TV." All because 3 little-known companies could allow 99% of Americans to drop their cable bills - and bankrupt Comcast - by 2014!

            My most recent job proves the paragraphs above. I spent the second half of my summer working hard and being well paid by Bunim Murray Productions to produce a pilot for for the cable TV network Style.  That’s the reason I stopped writing this weekly blog.  I was working on a pilot instead, and it came first.  But on the day before I delivered my first cut to the network, Comcast and NBC Universal announced that The Style Network was becoming The Esquire Network, for men, and it would be happening in three weeks. Many people lost their jobs overnight.
            This rapid change happens in radio all the time, when the classic rock station becomes a country station in a night.  Now cable TV changes almost as fast.  I still got paid, I still did a good job, and I expect it will air somewhere.  It mayeven become a series somewhere.  Mostly, I am glad that I got to work at Bunim Murray Productions again, after a decade away. And it doesn’t feel like they’re going anywhere, either; it’s the networks that will be going away.
            I have felt the scramble in cable for about five years -- I helped produce a show called Southern Belles for SoapNet, and there were huge billboards for the first season in Times Square in New York City -- and in less than five years, The Disney Company shuttered that network.
            I still get plenty of work in cable TV -- producing, directing, writing and editing -- and I’m thankful for it.  But I do feel like I’m moving deck chairs on the Titanic when I get notes from these networks. No one working in cable knows where they will be in five years.
            Production companies will still be around, and content will still be produced -- whether it’s for Youtube, Netflix, AOL, direct download, or a subscription through an app on your iPad, iPhone, or Internet TV -- no one knows.  Bunim Murray Productions, Vin di Bona Productions, Fishbowl Worldwide Media, and Worlds of Wonder are TV production companies at which I’ve worked in the two years, and all are already producing programming directly for the Internet. These companies are nimble and change quickly.  They are all already planning for the next generation of programming. What does the viewer want?  Eight 30-minute shows?  Or thirty 8-minute shows?  They can deliver the content, and they will be fine. 
            What you don’t want to do is start a music video production company, or a TV production company servicing the cable industry.  Even if you manage to sell three shows, if the network goes under and you have overhead costs...that’s bad news.
            And I have another confession to make.  I myself don’t even purchase cable TV anymore. I gave it up for good ten months ago, and any show that I want to watch I either can find on-line through Netflix, Apple TV and iTunes, Amazon or Hulu.  I can rent or purchase a la carte and keep up with anything -- and still stay current with all the trends in programming and thus remain employable.
            I am an anachronism, living proof of what I write.
            Will I miss cable TV?  Not really. I paid $85 a month and still had to watch commercials, which is why I got TIVO.  And then I got rid of that too.  Cable TV was cutting edge at one time, but it feels like it will have a thirty year run and be gone.  It will be replaced by apps on tablets and phones, and Internet Portals. 
            Can Comcast morph into something new? So that instead of going to Channel 67 to watch the Esquire Channel I hit the Esquire button on my iPad and experience programming for men that way?  Maybe, but they better move quick.
            Will I miss producing for cable TV?  Not really.  My daily work hasn’t changed much in five years, although the landscape has.  I’ll still be producing, directing, writing and editing something and making a living somehow.  I might have to do it cheaper and faster and better, but that’s always the case now, especially since 2008.
            I’ll go to whatever company needs my help telling a story, and maybe sometimes sell a few of my own. 
            Producers, directors, writers -- how has your work changed?