Friday, November 18, 2016

Acclimating to Life in LA

Jardin De Nails in Beverly Hills
I've almost completed three weeks of working in Los Angeles, and five weeks living here. There is still so much to see, learn, and participate it that it's going to take me the next 50 years of my life to experience all the opportunities available. But for now, I'm dealing with the 1.5 hours of commute to get to work in the morning, and almost 2 hours of getting home. But you know what, as much as it sucks, this is what I signed up for, and I'm dealing with it. I  have my ipod and CDs and I'm going with the flow of traffic. However, all that time spent in the car does add up and take a toll on the body, mind and spirit, and I have the perfect solutions to remedy that: Yoga and spa treatments.

Firstly, two weeks ago, I signed up for free classes during a ten day trial period with Yoga House in Pasadena. It's a lovely, bright zen yoga studio that I immediately embraced. After my trial period was up, I purchased the 5 class pass which I will use on Saturdays. The yoga stretches really help realign my body from the 15+ hours of sitting in a car all week, and my body appreciates it. Secondly, today, I'm treating myself to a pedicure at Jardin De Nails in Beverly Hills. I purchased a Groupon for a Deluxe Spa Gel Pedicure and I'm going there today after work. I prefer pedicures over manicures because I love doing my own nails. But when it comes to pedicures, it's a beautiful mini spa session that I trust the pedicurist to not only do my nails perfectly, but also take care of my feet from all the rough spots.

Larchmont Sanctuary Spa
And that's not all! Starting in December, I will enroll into a membership at the Larchmont Sanctuary Spa, in LA. With this membership - which has three different levels and different treatments - I will enroll in the option that allows me to have either a 60 minute Swedish massage or 60 minute organic facial, and 20 mins of a hydrotherapy bath in a copper tub. Sold! The name of this spa reminds me of my beloved but now defunct Sanctuary Spa in London which closed down in 2013. So I will look forward to this regular monthly day spa visit. My aim is to try to book my first reservation on Christmas Eve because I'm not flying home for Christmas and this will be my gift to myself. A fun way to celebrate my successful relocation to California and close out the year in control of my life!

Monday, November 14, 2016

Film Review: Arrival

Arrival arrived in theaters at the perfect time, just days after the most unbelievable 2016 Presidential election ended so horrendously. My love for the space epic and aliens genre helped me escape from reality if just for a couple of hours. I have often told people that probably the only thing that would bring all of humanity together is an alien invasion from another planet, and I think I may be right on that because director Denis Villeneuve apparently thinks the same way. Arrival touches on that, but on a much more cerebral and mysterious way.

One day, over a dozen locations around the planet, gigantic black oblong space crafts appear in the sky. The world is shocked and scared, and governments around the world instruct people to stay in their homes while they mobilize the military. Dr. Louise Banks, played by Amy Adams, is a linguist sought out by the US government to translate communications with the aliens. She is joined by Ian Donnelly played by Jeremy Renner, a theoretical scientist. Soon after Louise meets the aliens, and they communicate with her, she begins to experience strange things related to her past in which she still mourns about. The past is also interlaced with events that have yet come to pass, and she soon comes to understand that the stressful act of communicating with the aliens has changed her mental perception of time.

With the military getting itchy fingers to hurt the aliens before they harm humans, Louise is the only person on Earth who can figure out what they want and help both them and mankind. Arrival has elements of 2001 Space Odyssey and Intergalatic, and can be slow paced at times, but this is really a great film that comes at a good time. Arrival serves as a lesson that we have work together to solve complex problems that affects us all.  Just because you don't understand something or someone due to extreme language barriers - patience, compassion, and a very open mind will assuage any concerns and save both interests.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Prince Harry's American Girl, Meghan Markle

As much as I like the British Royals, I don't write about them, I just tweet stuff about them every so often, especially when it comes to Will and Kate. I have always liked both William and Harry, and as an American who loves things British, including admiring from afar, the monarchy (although I'm so glad we don't have a monarchy in the US), they are just an interesting bunch of people. Well, since this past weekend, it has been announced that Prince Harry has a new girlfriend and he's seeing the American actress, Meghan Markle, who stars in the show Suits, which is filmed in Toronto. I'm particularly excited about this relationship because Meghan is completely unlike any of Harry's other girlfriends. Meghan is American, she's a graduate of Northwestern University (very smart), a Women's Advocate for the United Nations, she has a lifestyle and beauty blog that I follow on Instagram called The Tig, she has a clothing line sold at Reitman's, a Canadian store featuring a capsule collection of clothes based on her Suits character, and she's bi-racial, a black mother and a white father. The usual suspects are shocked about the news and doubt it's anything more than a temporary girl until he finds a more 'proper' girlfriend to become his wife/princess. But I believe they are in for quite a surprise. Harry has been single for far too long and at 32, older than when his brother married Kate five years ago... it's time for him to settle down especially while the queen is still alive.

Well, as each day passes, it's becoming clear that Meghan is more than just a friendly acquaintance to Prince Harry (even though no pictures of the two of them have been released). But due to the world wide coverage about her apparently dating him for the past several months, today we see pics of her now surrounded with bodyguards while she's still based in Toronto filming her TV show. I took a look at her collection at Reitman's, and as timing would have it, I'm in dire need of a nice blouse for a Thanksgiving dinner party I will be attending in Beverly Hills, so, I purchased The Shirt from Meghan's Collection. You know that Reitman's is loving the media attention Meghan has received this week and this selection designed by Meghan will sell out in due time. I do love how much of a bargain the US dollar is in Canada.

I look forward to continued coverage about Meghan and Harry and I hope for his sake, she's the one and that they are happy.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Reeve Carney at Molly Malone's in Los Angeles

For my first concert living here in the Los Angeles area, I went to see actor and musician Reeve Carney at Molly Malone's last night. I have only been aware of Reeve for about 5 months now, and that's due to Netflix streaming the excellent but recently cancelled Showtime show, Penny Dreadful, where Reeve plays the beautiful but deadly Dorian Grey. Reeve also recently starred in the remake of the Rocky Horror Picture Show where he wonderfully played Riff Raff!  I soon started to research Reeve and learned about his primary occupation as a singer and composer. I started to follow him on his Twitter and Instagram accounts, and I listened a little bit to his music. What small samplings I heard was enough for me to determine that he was someone I should see in concert if I got the chance.

Well, lo and behold, Reeve's new Fall tour commenced in LA Monday night, October 24 at LA's Molly Malone's, a popular Irish pub that host bands in its 150 occupancy concert room. To describe Reeve's music, I would say that he's an artist that is obviously influenced by blues, soul, rock, a little bit of country, and jazz; he's truly a person influenced by all genres of music. He plays the piano and the guitar with brilliant precision, and he's very animated, engaging and lively during his show. I had the pleasure of being in the front row of the general admission, standing room only audience and it was amazing being so close to such a beautiful soul who knows how to sing and put on an excellent show. Reeve was also supported by his equally talented and photogenic brother and sister, Zane and Paris Carney, musicians in their own right.

As Reeve explained, although he was born and raised in New York City, he went to high school and college in Los Angeles. So in the early 2000s, he was a regular entertainer at Molly Malone's where he honed his musical talents and developed his following. The audience really loved his music, and we all queued up to buy his CD and other merchandise where Reeve manned the merchandise stand to sign the merchandise and pose for pictures. I did not want my picture taken with him, I was content with the hundred photos I took of him with my camera and iPad. But when I got up to him to have him sign my CD, I shook his hand and told him how much I enjoyed the show and that I've only been following him for about five months and that his show was my first concert in my new home of LA. He thanked me for the honor and asked where I was from, I told him I was from Ann Arbor, MI and he knew the city. In fact, he said he did a show at the Ark on Main Street one time, and he was really impressed with AA. He signed my CD, and I asked for a hug, and he gave me one, before apologizing for being sweaty and wet. Lord, if all mankind can be as delicately sweaty and still smell good like him, we'll all be the better for it.

To Simone, Love, Reeve Carney :-)
In all, Reeve Carney put on an excellent show promoting his new CD, Youth Wasted, featuring the sexy Prince-esque song, 'Truth'. One listen to it and you will be hooked on this beautiful and very, very talented, and very sweet man. I look forward to seeing Reeve again in concert one day and I hope more people learn more about his music and see that he is more than a model handsome guy, he is truly talented in the musical sense and offers a stage presence that is greatly lacking in the under 35 musical act scene.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

California Here I Come!

My visit to Los Angeles over two weeks ago was a success. I had two networking meetings, stayed at a cool and comfortable AirBnB (my first time), and checked out some potential places to live. The palm trees cast against the beautiful blue sky was taken by me while I was relaxing and reflecting at the Self-Realization Fellowship Lake Shrine, just off the PCH and Sunset Blvd. I got accepted at both residences that I looked at, and wound up selecting one place immediately over the other for a variety of reasons. Last week I put in my two week's notice, and people have been very supportive but sad to see me go. I know I'm a great worker and Los Angeles is going to provide so many more opportunities that Michigan just cannot provide to me. I have plotted out my 3 1/2 day trip to LA starting Monday, October 17 with overnight pit stops in Iowa, Colorado and Utah. On the last day of the West bound trip, it's only 6 hours drive from my hotel in Utah to my new home in the LA area.

I'm in the process of talking to a great possible future employer, related to work in healthcare services that I greatly enjoyed at a previous job that was eliminated. And after the on-site interview visit when I arrive, I could start work in a matter of days. The timing is just perfect. I have put so much time, effort and universal energies into making this huge life change happen, that it's actually happening and I know I'll be ok and this will prove to be the right decision.

I'll be living in a suburb of LA, just about 30 minutes East outside of DTLA. The peace and quiet and cleanliness of my new home will serve as the perfect starting point as I get acclimated to live in LA County. I won't be close to the beach, but what's a mere hour's drive to the beach, compared to the costs associated to booking a 4 hour flight and getting a hotel to go see the same beach. In the meanwhile, I'll enjoy the views of the San Gabriel mountains from my bedroom. I've known several people from Michigan who lived for a brief time in Los Angeles, but found it to be too much for them, too densely populated, too expensive, and just too big for them. I have been visiting LA for over 10 years and it's the only state that I feel that will truly feel like home for me for the rest of my life.

Keep an eye on my Instagram account as I document my drive from Ann Arbor to Los Angeles starting on October 17. Thanks for the support, positive vibes and well wishes!

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

TIFF 2016 Trips

File photo
The impossible was made possible and accomplished. Driving to and from Toronto on two separate trips within three days last week, hurts. However, I was able to take care of Tiff business on Wednesday for the Michael Fassbender Soiree. I still can't believe I drove there and back inside 24 hours, and made it to work the following morning only 10 minutes late! The Saturday drive was at a different pace. I left home at 4am, arrived in Toronto at 8:30 am. Found downtown parking for $10, and had breakfast at Tim Horton's by 9am. I watched two films, chatted with nice folks while standing in line, ate sushi, and was back in my car at 5:15pm to drive back home. I arrived at 10:46 pm, after I was so hungry and desperate for a quick meal, I went to the McDonald's drive through, the first time in a decade! I took a long hot bath, swallowed three Advil PMs, and slept until 10:30 the following morning. Well rested and caught up on much needed sleep after my TIFF/Toronto adventures.

This is the last time I will make such a trek to Toronto. I'm moving to California soon, and the logistical advantage of driving to Toronto will be lost due to this move. I'm going to skip TIFF next year because I need a break from this particular festival. I love TIFF and Toronto, but in the 13 years I have been attending, each year the festival changes. As per my conversations with people standing in line with me, they too feel betrayed by TIFF's relentless pursuit of chasing corporate and studio sponsor money, and their Visa Infinity connection alienates ticket holders/buyers who cannot obtain or desire to have that credit card. If it weren't for the new alignment with Ticketmaster this year, buying tickets would have been pure chaos.

I'll post more pictures later, but I also wanted to express my dismay at the circus atmosphere of King Street for the first weekend at TIFF. Over half of the people there don't go to the movies, they are there for the free food and trinkets, and selfies with stars and seeking their autographs. I complain about this every year, but it just gets worse and worse as the social media influence persuades the star seekers to only go to TIFF to stalk celebrities. These people aren't interested in said celebrity's films, just their moment in the spotlight of getting that precious selfie with a celebrity who feels obligated because it's all part of the TIFF festival experience.

As I move to California, I look forward to attending other festivals that don't have the star struck craziness of TIFF. Film Festivals are suppose to be about FILMS and the talent that created them, not fan frenzy that distracts from the festival of people who can't be bothered to actually buy a ticket to the films. Also, at TIFF, there is an unbalanced focus on films that have Oscar potential vs. those that do not. Little attention is made to those that are just made for entertaining, education, and enlightenment. One of the two films I saw is not Oscar caliber, and that's ok, it was the type of film that NEED a film festival to help it find its audience and a film distributor to buy it so that people can see it. Often, it takes many months, perhaps a year or two before a 'non-Oscar bait' festival film gets purchased, only to be released on streaming or obscure art houses and forgotten about. TIFF is about the money and the PR that comes with high profile films that will be blockbusters and get Oscar nominations. And I'm tired of it. So I need a break from it, if for just one year.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Two Round-trip Drives to Toronto in One Week

Instead of completely avoiding the Toronto Int'l Film Festival this year like I originally planned, I will be driving there twice within several days for two separate events. As previously mentioned, I will be attending the TIFF Soiree for actor Michael Fassbender on Wednesday. A few weeks after buying the Soiree tickets, the film festival schedule was released and Fassbender's film, Trespass Against Us, will show on a Saturday at around noon. Perfect timing to go to Toronto again to see a film that I may have difficulty seeing later in the year. When single tickets went on sale today, I was able to purchase my one ticket for the 11:45 am Saturday screening.  I wanted to make my Saturday visit more worthwhile in looking for other films to watch between 3 and 6pm, but I couldn't find anything that really appealed to me. So, after I watch the movie, I'll immerse myself into Toronto for the remainder of the afternoon, hangout on King Street, go to my favorite sushi restaurant and be back on the road by 5-6pm.

Next year, I think I may have to take a real break from TIFF. The festival is changing so much, and becoming so much more expensive and cumbersome. Dealing with this saga from LA will be a bit too much, so I will take at least a one year break in 2017 and resume the following year. But until then, I will enjoy my visits this year.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Decisions, Decisions Regarding TIFF '16

I declared months ago that I will not be attending the Toronto Int'l Film Festival for my 12th year in a row. I'm already going to go to Toronto for the TIFF Soiree featuring Michael Fassbender on Wednesday, September 7th. However, I would like to explore possibly driving to Toronto, again, on Saturday so I can see Michael's film, Trespass Against Us, at 11:45am, as well as The Magnificent Seven, directed by the awesome Antoine Fuqua, and starring Denzel Washington at 2:30pm.

Try as I might to put all things TIFF out of my mind, I find myself wringing my hands slightly to see if there's a chance I can go there quickly, just to see two movies, and get out of town. Because I'm so close to Toronto, it's almost like a no brainer in determining if I should attend, especially on a Saturday! Well, individual tickets for the festival go on sale on Sunday, Sept 4th at 9am. If I can buy these two tickets, or just the one for Trespass, I will make it another fun one-day excursion to Toronto, and this will definitely be the LAST time I drive from Michigan to Toronto to attend the festival.

If it's meant to be, I'll be there.

Friday, August 19, 2016

The Death of The Birth of a Nation?

Nate Parker (middle) as Nat Turner in Birth of a Nation
The subject matter of actor/director Nate Parker's Birth of a Nation, a dramatization of Nat Turner's uprising and rebellion of slaves and free black people in August of 1831, is an extremely important American story to tell and this film is providing an opportunity for an audience (American and worldwide) to better understand the events leading up to the uprising, and the end results, or rather, horrible repercussions. After its debut this past January at the Sundance Film Festival, where Fox Searchlight paid a record $17.5 million for distribution rights for the film, it signaled that Birth was going to be heralded as THE film to turn the tide at the next Oscars broadcast. The industry desperately needed a film and performances by non-white actors to get behind and showcase as the film to win next February. The reason for this is to make up for two consecutive years of the Oscars not being diverse enough in the acting, directing, and film categories. A lot is riding on the success of Birth of a Nation, regardless of how controversial and raw the film is, the industry and backers of the film, need it to succeed for the symbolism of industry diversity in honoring artistic achievements when the 2016-17 award season ends next February at the Oscars.

But that all came to a screeching halt last weekend when on a promotional interview, writer, director and actor of Birth, Nate Parker, candidly made reference to his past criminal investigation of a rape in 1999 while a student at Penn State. Although he was found not-guilty due to a technicality, basic information about this situation was on his wikipedia page for quite a while. But because Nate has been an actor who has been under the radar in the past 10 years of his acting/directing career, not a lot of people were aware of him, let alone the public records of his 'transgression' at Penn State in 1999. In what I believe was an attempt to be open and seemingly remorseful about his past, Nate opened this conversation up to a much wider public audience where 98% of us did not know about this rape case. Like most people, I'm not in the habit of when I first learn about a public figure, I don't go directly to his/her wikipedia page to learn more about them. I just read the general article that is written about them, and leave it at that. So it's not like this rape case was being suppressed or anything, the basic gist of it was there on his wikipedia page... but not the gory details, which are just now being shared to the rest of us who had no clue about the rape case period.

In the past several days, we've come to learn that Nate's writing partner, Jean Celestin, was also involved in the rape case. But unlike Nate, Jean was actually found guilty - but six months later, in a failed re-trial, he was exonerated. So now that's three brand new pieces of information to soil the film: 1. a rape, 2. friend found guilty but Nate off on a technicality, and 3. friend eventually exonerated. But as people become curious, disgusted and then more outraged about this new old information, more shovels come out to dig up more dirt. We come to learn that the technicality that got Nate cleared was only because he had a sexual encounter with the girl a day before. So yah, it's ok then to have sex with her unconscious body a day later! Not!

It gets worse. There is a phone transcript between the girl and Nate where she states how confused (she was drunk and blacked out) she was and curious as to how many more guys were in the room. Nate totally blew her off and made like she knew what was going down and he was very hesitant to let her know that Jean was part of the sexual encounter too. There was also a third guy involved. He was in the dorm room with Nate, Jean and the girl, and when he saw her unconscious body laying on the bed while Nate was having his way with her, he told authorities that Nate invited them both to join in! Jean joined in raping her, but the other guy left because he knew it was wrong and didn't want to have anything to do with it. For clarification, to me, a person is being raped when they are heavily drugged or intoxicated, and cannot freely agree to having sexual relations with one person... let alone a second person. Ok?

Reports from the case, and testimony from the girl lay bare how devastating this attack was to her. The young woman was already fragile having coming from a broken home, foster care, and battling depression. Even after dealing with such personal turmoil, she was very bright and was a straight A student. She worked two jobs, and had a scholarship to Penn State. She explained how she was so confused and scared about not knowing what happened to her that previous night as she woke up very sore and knew she had been raped. She was in such a physical state, she could not walk well and she said that her vagina was literally painful and felt like it was shredded. The Daily Beast wrote a most thorough, chilling, and compelling article about the entire case. Anyone with a hint of compassion for a rape victim will be terribly disturbed by the recounting of the events. The harassment that the victim experienced to keep her from testifying in the second trial is awful. It appears that the department of athletics at Penn State and students supporting Nate and Jean made life on campus for the girl unbearable, embarrassing, and under constant threat.

She attempted suicide twice within a 10 day period in late 2002-ish, but eventually fell down a self-destructed path of no return and died on her third suicide attempt in 2012. Her family states that the rape and the trial and the harassment destroyed her and lead to her killing herself. The stress and feeling of helplessness from her attack, broke her down mentally, and she was never able to recover.

Fortuitously, with Nate Parker bringing up this case in an effort to put it out there now and behind him as he prepares for Oscar season, we all now learn of the victim's fate, her death by suicide four years ago. This knowledge really pissed off people and added a new layer to this terrible saga. Apparently, the news of the victim's death came as a surprise to Nate, and he has written some lame ass soul cleansing post on his facebook. I don't care what the man has to say as I believe it's insincere. Based on what I know from public records of this case, he's an asshole who took advantage of a woman in the worst way, and left her in such a mental and physical state that she eventually killed herself years later.

Nation could still do ok at the Oscars - because people need it to
So now, Nate Parker and Fox Searchlight are trying to redeem him and help fix this PR nightmare in order to get Birth of a Nation on the road to winning tons of Oscars. After all, that's why Fox Searchlight paid $17.5 million, a record amount of money for an indie film, so that it could be positioned to win Oscars. But I'm sorry, I was already on the fence about watching this movie. Some films I need to see in the theaters, others I patiently wait until I can stream it. That's what I'll do with Birth. I'm not giving this film a penny of my money to support it at the box office. I know that in an ideal world, we should separate the politics and negative ideas we have towards the talent that produces art, from the art they create. A film or piece of art should be viewed in appreciation of its own merits. But dammit, I cannot in this case, and that can be said for many others who feel the way I do.

There are those who are compelled to still watch this film, and I do understand why because this is an important story that needs to be told and watched.  People are anxious to see Nat Turner's story on the big screen - a long, long overdue account that again, needs to be told. Thus far the film has yet to receive outstanding critical praise, just very modest support. Yet again, another indication that this film is being handled with delicate gloves in order to position it to win big at the Oscars, in a shallow attempt to redeem the Oscars themselves from recent years of not valuing diversity in key award categories.

I cannot in good conscience support Birth of a Nation by going to see it, and I'll go a step further and write that I do not believe that this film should win Best Picture. I don't have much say or pull, but I think my sentiments are shared by a lot of people, especially those who are able to vote. Birth is also being positioned to be nominated in Directing and Actor for Nate. If the film were to overcome this PR nightmare, it would win just three years after 12 Years a Slave won Best Picture, another film about 19th century American slavery and the evils of that time. I personally wish that there was another type of American story about black life that was not related to slavery times in the position of being honored by the Oscars. But like those who make Halocaust films and documentaries, American slavery is a significant and horrific historical event that lasted over two hundred years (1619-1865) - much longer than the Halocaust in Europe; but these are stories that need to be told. However, the big major difference in a so called justification of the proliferation of Halocaust stories vs. American slavery stories, is that the Halocaust was a much more recent, and many actual survivors and some of the evil perpetrators are still alive. No American slaves or American slave owners are alive today... however, yes, the after effects of slavery itself still linger in this country at the detriment of many black Americans.

I want people to see Parker's Birth of a Nation if they want to, when it rolls out into theaters on October 7. I want Birth of a Nation to recoup its production costs - I don't want it to be an utter failure at the box office. And I want Nate Parker to eventually evolve and move on from his horrible actions of 1999. But I don't want him to be honored this year at the Oscars. I'm too disturbed by his actions from 17 years ago, and I think his actions are unforgivable as we are coming to learn the full extent of the sexual assault event. I don't hate Nate Parker, he is a flawed human being whose recent words appear false and lacking true humility. His words are designed only to protect the film's Oscar chances and to protect his legacy. But in the end, this is show business and the business end of it takes precedence, and Fox Searchlight is going to get their money back come hell or high water, and they will do whatever it takes to get at least one Oscar for this film. To that, I say, good luck, you'll need it because this week, Birth of a Nation's Oscar chances died.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Using Airbnb for the First Time

I registered with Airbnb last year in anticipation of needing to use this service as I make plans to move to California. But as I was trying to set up my account, I was having huge difficulties in managing my profile and providing my credit card information. It was so bad, I was just about to cancel everything and walk away from using their services. However, I decided to reach out to their customer service to get their help. They were very helpful but puzzled by my problem to complete updating my profile. It took them almost a week to fix the problem, but they resolved the registration issue on my account. But, Airbnb went a step further, they apologized to me for the technical glitch and they gave me $100 credit to use towards my first booking. It was an extremely generous offer for an annoying situation and that made me really appreciative of how they respect their customer's time.

Well today I booked my first Airbnb reservation at a house in Los Angeles near Culver City/Venice. LA is a popular destination so if you want to use Airbnb, you need to book early. I am on an extremely tight budget so I had to find something within my $50/night range. I saw two places that were under $40, but one was literally a spare 'sofa' in a dark room, and the other was more like a hostel where they had bunkbeds in a large room. Look, even while I'm on a budget, I still have standards. However, I found this really cute room in a house for $53/night. I read the amenities, noted my preferred location in this vast city, and I read their cancelation policy. Everything else nearby was out of my budget range, and that's ok because I really got lucky in selecting this place.

The way Airbnb works is that people register with this company to host visitors to stay at their place. Some hosts have the bare minimum amenities for those on strict budgets, and others are quite luxurious. I'm smack dab in the middle. I get a private bed and bath in a 'cute and modern' home. So once you submit a request to stay at a place and the time you want to stay, the host will make the decision to accept your request or not. I almost forgot - it is extremely helpful to read the reviews of guests who stayed at properties, they can make or break your decision. Although the place I decided to stay at was new and had only six reviews, all six were 5-star reviews and the comments were very nice. To help the host decide to accept you, you're given the opportunity to write a message explaining your reason for visiting and needing a place to stay. Nice, simple and transparent. Not five minutes later, I get a text message from the host providing me with some updates about her home. I agreed and understood and in the next message, she approved me to stay. After applying my $100 credit to the payment, I only owed $102. Broken down for three nights, that is only $34 a night - totally within my budget!

The neat thing about staying at this particular residence is that it is only a 7 minute walk from an Enterprise car rental. I will rent a car so I can drive to my appointments, and of course, I got the most economical car. So, I'm really excited about my late September visit, which will be an opportunity for me to attend some important networking interview/meetings as well as check out places to live. Another cool thing about Airbnb is that most residences that host give a discount for monthly rentals. So that's something for me to think about as a temporary backup plan.

Thanks to those who have pledge thus far to make a donation by the end of my fundraiser. I really, really appreciate any donations made! xoxo

Monday, August 1, 2016

OMG it's August!

Michigan has 3, 288 miles of freshwater coastline, the longest in the US
Summers in Michigan have a tendency to go too fast, but yet winters linger, and over stay its visit by a month or two. This spring and summer in Michigan, my last before my move to California, has been very productive and I have enjoyed my excursions and trips. But alas, I am steadily moving towards my relocation to Los Angeles and things are getting serious (applying for jobs daily, cleaning out my apartment, saving money, etc). Today I opened my fundraiser to raise at least $1,000 to help me offset some work time I have lost here at my current job. As I share in detail in this blog post, I'm running a little behind on my savings plan for my move and I'm reaching out to a select audience for help.

With so many people all around the world using the Internet to raise money for a multitude of reasons and events, I truly believe that one must be transparent in the reason why they are asking for money, and to be careful to not permit the fundraising to get out of control to the point where integrity comes into question, and people wonder what you really have planned for that money. Also, there's lots of money to be made from the fundraiser sites that are supposedly designed to help people raise money. You have to read the fine print about the fees that are automatically deducted from those sites - it's in their best interest that a fundraiser does well enough that they profit off of it. So when I realized that my previous fundraiser venue had a questionable fee structure, I backed away from it as I didn't want to support their profits during the one public time I am seeking extra financial support.

I realize I may be opening myself up for ridicule, but you cannot get help without asking for it. At the top of the sidebar, I have a Paypal donation link. If you are so inclined to make a donation from Aug 1 - Sept 15, I would greatly appreciate it. Please let me know if you have any questions.

As I wrap up my final few months here in Michigan, I'm taking note of things that I'll be doing for the 'last time' in my home state. Like last weekend, I ventured to the Ann Arbor Art Fair. It was a perfect day, and I stuck to my budget of $25 to spend by buying a pretty hair wrap, and some gorgeously moisturizing goat milk soap! I'm checking out some of my favorite stores for fun walk through. Even though I will be visiting Michigan regularly, things change and sometimes stores close or move to a different area. Of all the cities in Michigan, Ann Arbor is the only one that I feel a genuine emotional connection with, and I'll miss it. But, like I said, I'll be back.

And although I announced months ago that I will not be attending the Toronto International Film Festival this year, I will attend a soiree just a day before the festival opens. It will be a quick one day trip to my beloved Toronto, but it will be worth it. When I left Pearson airport last month after my trip overseas, I believed then that it was my last time driving from Toronto back home to Michigan. Well, since this soiree event has been announced for September 7th, I will truly make one last round trip drive to Toronto from Michigan. The first drive I made was back in the late 90s, but prior to that, in the early 90s, I took the train. I will miss being so close to the coolest non-American, American city in the world. In the future when I attend TIFF, I'll be flying to it from Los Angeles.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


It is important to take the time to acknowledge your own progress, regardless how small. Forward is forward. Yes, you may not have achieved your main goal yet but you are moving in the right direction. I make sure to tell myself that every now and then. Often I hear people feel like they are not where they want to be, but don't ever feel a sense of accomplishment for how far they have come. Congratulate yourself. Reward yourself. Get yourself something to remind you of what you accomplished so you can remember that positive feeling. - Dr. Mitchell Gibson

This is great advice that I have to remind myself. Any action made towards my goal to move to Los Angeles, California, is progress. All these little steps will add up to making my goal, which is to have a safe relocation to the Los Angeles area with a job lined up before the end of October. So much planning is going into this huge life transition that it must come together and work out in the end.

I have to stay the course and stay positive! Om.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Next Stop... Los Angeles

I'm fresh back from my long, long planned family trip to London and Paris, and it was a success and I'm glad it's over. And as timing would have it, I arrived in London just as the English voted LEAVE on the Brexit referendum. While flying into Heathrow on Air Canada, at around 6:30 am, the pilot announced that England voted to remain in the EU. I was disappointed but figured they would do this. Then not 3 minutes later, he announced that he was in error, and that actually, 52% of the voters decided to LEAVE, to the 48% who wanted to remain. The gasps were audible on the plane. LOL! I had hoped they would vote to leave, but I didn't think they would have the guts to follow through on such an important and world changing event. When we landed and as I was in the long customs queue, I was reading on my ipad that the PM resigned. Holy crap! I know England will prevail once all the dust settles from this historic saga and all the crazy politics. I also hope that Parliament and the new Prime Minister does the right thing and push through Article 50 in September which will initiate England's actual exit from the European Union. Everyone who voted for Leave was very, very brave, it was a terribly difficult decision that needed to be made, and I wish my second home away from home the best! Not everyone who voted to leave is racist, in fact, a small minority are loud and proud idiot racists, but the majority of people were not and simply did not trust the direction that the EU was leading England into, and the immigration situation should be controlled by the British. Period.

Now that my Euro trip is over, I am officially in Move to LA mode. I have to work my butt off the rest of this summer to not only save for this big move, but also continue to pay current bills and rent, and look for a new job in Los Angeles. Short of winning the lottery jackpot (which I'm confident I will win big one day), I have to hustle like a mofo to be financially in the position to relocate. I have already decided that I will sell everything in my apartment that is able to be sold, and I will give away the rest to the Salvation Army, and I will put the rest into storage. I will only take with me what will fit into my car. I can't even attach a u-haul hitch to my car because it's not recommended for my vehicle type. So it will be a bare bones move at the end of October, or sooner, and I'm just going to be positive about the whole thing. The universe will take care of my needs as long as I take the proper actions to achieve what I want.

This year I started out visiting Palm Springs, then I visited Philadelphia in April, then I went to Toronto, London, and Paris... and now I have to hunker down for the rest of the summer for my final and permanent destination of Los Angeles. These next few months are going to be stressful, but in a good and promising way.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Four years later...

When my niece started high school four years ago, I told her that for her graduation gift, I would take her to London. She then asked if we could also visit Paris. Without blinking an eye, I said yes. Four years later, we are two days away from heading to my favorite city in the world, London, and the fantastic city of Paris. This will be my 12th or 13th trip (I need to count my passport stamps) to London, and my second to Paris. We're all packed and just waiting for the countdown clock to chime. I will make a pitstop in Toronto to have lunch with my dearest Canadian friend Glenn, and then fly to London from Toronto, where on Friday evening we'll have dinner with my dearest English friend Lucinda, and then on Saturday, meet up with a dear Fassinator friend, Anna - she will join us on the Jack the Ripper tour!

However financially straining this trip planning has been, it's been worth it because it's something that is a once in a lifetime trip for my niece, my mother, and me. I'll be the tour guide this time and watching them ooh and ahh over how brilliant both these beautiful and fun cities are.

Follow my Instagram account for holiday photo adventure updates between June 23 through July 2!

Friday, June 10, 2016

A Commentary from Socrates at the NYTimes

This is the second time this week I wanted to share an opinion posted online at the New York Times. The comment below was written by a poster appropriately named Socrates in response to Jack Klugman's editorial on Hillary Clinton's Democratic Party nomination, Hillary and the Horizontals.

What Socrates wrote was so informative, educational, and sensible, that I have to share it with my readers:


 is a trusted commenter Downtown Verona, NJ 1 hour ago
The Republican Party platform has not changed since 1964 when Democratic President Lyndon Johnson perfectly articulated it to his aide Bill Moyers:

"I'll tell you what's at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he's better than the best colored man, he won't notice you're picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he'll empty his pockets for you."

Make The 0.1% Richer By Duping The White Supremacists Again

As for those interested in good government, sensible regulation, alternative energy, civil rights, a living wage, the separation of church and state, justice, voting rights, women's rights, democracy, diplomacy and the common good, those people vote they white, black, Hispanic or purple.

This election, as usual, is about right-wing 'free-dumb' for 0.1% profit vs. actual freedom from right-wing tyranny.

This election, as usual, is about putting the Confederate States of America in their proper place and back in a permanent state of Reconstruction from their moral, intellectual and fiscal bankruptcy.

The Civil War never ends in America.

The Confederates simply need to be continuously reminded that they lost the Civil War.

Monday, June 6, 2016

My response to NYTimes Charles Blow commentary - The Madness of America

I have an electronic subscription to the New York Times, the one newspaper that I feel is a mandatory read for national and worldwide news. So when I read their editorials online, I often write an intelligent, compassionate, and professional response. One of my opinions was even printed in the paper edition a few days later back in April.

However today, a very interesting and well thought out editorial, written by Charles Blow, titled, The Madness of America, demanded me to respond in support of what he wrote. Basically he is calling out the anti-Trump demonstrators who interlope at Trump supporter rallies. These anti-Trump people, while their hearts are in the right place - not supporting such an unqualified and uncouth person to be POTUS, they have lost their minds in aiding in causing extremely violent eruptions at an otherwise legal rally of foolish Trump supporters.

Apparently I took too much time in reading the article between eating my lunch, and just as I pressed 'submit' to share my thoughts below, the comment section froze and up popped 'Comments Closed' at 689 comments. Gee, were comments getting too hot for NYTimes to handle? I have witnessed comments going well over 2000 for some articles. If you're going to write about Trump ad nauseum, then be prepared for heated comments from supporters and those who don't like Trump. My comment wasn't mean spirited, but I really wanted to get out there in cyberland, my opinion, so, I want to use my blog to publish my one time opinion on this pathetic Republican nominee (is this the best y'all can do?).

Trump cannot be elected!
I think both sides of the Trump debate, the supporters and the misguided protestors, are making matters worse. Just like how the KKK relies on the protestors to get valuable media coverage, so do the Trump gatherings attract the loudest and sadly, the craziest of the anti-Trump protestors, like a moth to a flame. Both sides are irrational, and the rest of us are looking at them while shaking our heads in disgust. 
I cannot stand Trump and I question anyone's rationality who would vote for him, but I would never, ever invade their space with violence while they gather to support him. Vote on election day inside the privacy of the voting booth, and that's the best way to protest against someone who would do irreparable harm to this country. Vote against Trump, don't waste your time inciting violence in attacking the very people are are prone to reacting to said violence. Don't fight fire with fire, it just gets hotter and out of control.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Working at Cinetopia Int'l Film Festival 2016

Although this is the 5th year of the Ann Arbor/Detroit Cinetopia International Film Festival, this is my third and sadly, final year in being a theater supervisor at the event. Due to my move to Los Angeles later this year, I went into this year's volunteer stint with great enthusiasm and interest. I worked four shifts this Saturday and Sunday (Day 2 and 3 of the festival) at the Center for Creative Studies in Detroit. I had a great crew of volunteers, all the equipment worked, there were no projector fiascoes, and there were good crowds at the venue. There were some nice improvements this year, and I know that as each year develops, there will be newer upgrades to make things even more efficient, and more perks for volunteers and patrons.

Because I work an 11-12 hour day, M-F, I cannot participate in any additional Cinetopia festivities until next Saturday, June 11. On that day, I plan to watch four movies. Of the films I was able to watch during my work shift, Parched is an Indian film about three sisters on three different life paths, but all doomed under the archaic patriarchal society of rural India. And the second film I saw was Trapped, a new documentary about the current HB2 laws in the Southern states, especially in Texas, that is trying to make abortion providers and those seeking abortions, to constantly jump over the newest obstacles designed to restrict abortion. Both films were very good. Next weekend, I plan to watch, Sonita, This Changes Everything, Hunky Dory, and Lo and Behold - Reveries of the Connected World.

Here are some images I took during my shifts at Cinetopia this weekend:

People having their tickets and passes scanned for the Parched screening

Me and Cinetopia Director Russ Collins

A line of people going to see the Maya Angelou film

Everyone one in red are the volunteers working with me

Two views of the audience for the popular Maya Angelou screening

I'm grateful for being able to volunteer my time to such a great and steadily growing film festival. This opportunity gives me valuable experience to work at other film festivals in the future in California.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Full Steam Ahead

Just as I get the inspiration to write a blog post, oftentimes a quote or phrase comes to my mind which will be the theme of the blog post. As I'm starting to take some significant strides towards my move to California, the phrase, 'Full steam ahead' came to mind. I Googled the phrase for an image (see above), and the Google translation of this phrase reads: Used to indicate that one should proceed with as much speed or energy as possible.

Yup, that sums up my actions at the moment. I have started to apply to some jobs, and I even spoke with an HR rep at a local university in Los Angeles about how best to present my resume. I asked her this question specifically since I'm not in California now, but still in Michigan. I asked if I should use a local address and she said that would be wise. But she also told me to explain my relocation plans clearly in the cover letter. After a review of some ideal apartment communities around Culver City (my targeted area of future domicile), I am using a Culver City address on my cover letter and resume, but making it clear in my cover letter that it is my future residence. This serves several purposes: 1) It's a viable address of a place near the university that is my targeted employer, 2) having this address helps prevent my application from being tossed into the 'not local' bin,  and 3) it demonstrates my sincere intent to move to that area, it shows I'm committed, have done my housing research, and that I will be close to that employer.

As I'm applying to various other organizations, I'm using the same address. In all likelihood, I will live somewhere else, and hopefully very close by to this address I'm using, but I will be flexible in moving to several other areas where other targeted employers are based. Although I know some people in the LA area, contact with them has fallen into radio silence. I don't expect or want anyone to hold my hand in this big move, but it would be great to have some sort of emotional support and encouragement, or tips/advice in moving to the area. In an ideal situation, it would be good to use a local friend's address just on paper. But I don't have that luxury. I'm prepared to move to LA and start from scratch in building up a local network of friends. It will all work out in the end, I've got a lot of karma in queue and it's all good.

So if anyone happens to come upon this article in their search for ideas to plan for a relocation, especially to Southern California, it is ok to use a local address for your resume and cover letter. Just be sure that it's at least an address that is someplace you would definitely like to live at, and which is in a location near the company you are applying for. The address of the apartment I'm using is something I hope is available when I move, but if not, I will find something similar close by.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Spring update post

Cheryl Fernandez Versini - Cannes best dressed

I haven't updated in a bit, so I should just get everything mentioned in here that I need to mention. Firstly, I'm glad it's spring here in Michigan, even though by Michigan typical standards, that means low 30 degrees, flurries, and serious allergy flare ups. This spring also marks my final active spring here in Michigan, because as each day inches closer towards September and October, my days are numbered here and I'm California bound.

Two weeks ago, I had a very short road trip to Philadelphia to see Pearl Jam. It was a 10 hour drive one way, and at one point, I wondered if Philadelphia existed because I didn't see any signs that referenced Philly up ahead. Literally as I was on the expensive PA turnpike, only as I was within 100 miles of Philly did I see reference to it. So it's good to know that my GPS wasn't leading me into the Atlantic ocean. However, many landscape scenes were familiar driving along this road trip because in the late 90s, I lived in Maryland and took this drive half a dozen times when visiting family. Anyway, my trip to Philly to see Pearl Jam was fun and fantastic. However, when I met up with my PJ concert buddy Jim, he bragged that this was his 39th time seeing Pearl Jam. I know he has seen the band well over a dozen times more than I have, so with his self confidence in declaring that he had seen PJ 39 times, sadly, my claim to seeing them "approximately 25" times is a make believe ass lie to myself.

In actuality, it's apparent that my seeing Pearl Jam live is between the 17-20 count. Still, that's not bad and to some people, that's still obsessive. But after Jim sees PJ again for six more shows this summer, he'll be at 45 shows, and another person we both know has seen PJ 153 times. So, while I'm crazy about Pearl Jam, and will drive 20 hours round trip all by myself and spend $600 that I don't really have... there are crazier fans with a lot more time and money on their hands.

The 2016 Cannes Film Festival is going on right now, and Andrea Arnold's American Honey is getting a lot of praise. I will definitely have to see that when it's available in the US. And when it comes to the best dressed, I just love, love Cheryl Fernandez-Versini's beautiful Naeem Kahn gown. Her lipstick even perfectly match the primary fushia color theme. Perfection! Now that I am a TIFF regular, I volunteer at Cinetopia Film Festival, and have been to the LA film festival and Palm Springs film festival, I will attend Cannes one day... one day I will, I promise me! Speaking of the film festivals, I'm slated to volunteer for the Cinetopia film festival for my third year in a row in a few weeks, and it will be my final time volunteering as I'll be in Los Angeles soon. And as you know, each September since 2004, I have attended the Toronto film festival, but this year, I will not be able to attend. I'll be busy planning my move to LA, and I'll need to be very deliberate in making traveling arrangements to LA to coincide with job interviews and looking for a place to live. This move to LA is going to take everything out of me, but oddly enough, I feel an internal peace and calmness about it all. At least at the moment.

Yes, I'm scared about the move, but very excited too. I know how hard it is to make it out in LA, but I have put too much mental and emotional power into this move. I even went back to college to get my Masters degree to prepare for this move. If that's not motivation, I don't know what is. Also, my drive to Philly was a great experience to see how my car handles on long drives and I figure that as long as I drive in 10-12 hour shifts, I will make it to LA safely and comfortably.

I have started my job search and have been making a lot of good new connections via LinkedIn. But after my London/Paris trip is over, the real job search will go into full swing. I will start getting rid of stuff I'm not taking to California, and depending on what happens, I will have to put my larger stuff into storage. Whatever can't fit into my car, I cannot take with me just yet. I'll ship out probably a half dozen boxes to my new home. I did this when I moved from Maryland to New Jersey and it was a smart thing to do. Moving across town is stressful and expensive, so I want to plan, and plan, and pre-plan this move to CA to the most minute detail so I get it all right and have all that I need, when and where I need it.

Now more than ever, as I get closer to the dates of my Euro trip and then my CA move, I need to remember this:

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

So much has been Happening!

It's been a month since my last update and a lot of things have been happening, in fact, I've been quite the busy bee! Firstly, I had to quit my part-time job at Lush because I wasn't getting enough hours. In a two week period, I would work maybe 14 hours and that's just not going to cut it for my savings goals for my Euro trip in June and my move to California in October. So, I found another part-time evening job that fits perfectly into my schedule, gives me 20 hours a week, it pays a dollar more than the store, and best of all, I have my weekends FREE again! Sure, this means I'm working 60 hours a week. I do have 1.5 hours between each job, and my primary job is a desk sitting one in my office. I wish I didn't have to work another job, but this is for the short term to help me earn enough money to accomplish both of these important events.

Speaking of such, I'm well into the pre-planning stages of the London/Paris trip. Within a few weeks, I'll start buying advance tickets for some of the activities we'll be doing in London/Paris. I'm excited about meeting up with two friends in London and doing some things that I've never done before in the dozen times I've been to London. And realizing how much money I will need for this trip is evidence that I need this part-time job in order to make this trip 110% fun and stress free. I hate going on trips and watching what I spend. I've been on many trips on a budget before, but it's much more enjoyable going on a trip and not giving a damn about what I buy.

That's how my trip to Philly just next week will be. I'm driving 10 hours to go see Pearl Jam on April 29th. Pearl Jam has been in the news this week due to them canceling the Raleigh, North Carolina concert, which was scheduled for today, 4/20, in protest against that state's ridiculous and discriminatory HB2 law that targets transgendered people's access to public restrooms based on their current gender status. There are other unfair discriminatory laws currently on the books against the LGBT community and enough is enough! A lot of fans are pissed off that the show was canceled, and those fans obviously are clueless or indifferent to the band's progressive liberal leanings, so this really should come as no shock. The fans should direct their anger at the governor of NC for passing this law without a public vote. Anyway, I'm all the more excited to see my favorite band in the world, and I totally support their decision to cancel the Raleigh show. If you're interested in signing a petition to repeal HB2, go here -

In preparation for my move to California, I have purchased a premium membership at LinkedIn so that I can get in direct contact with people who make the hiring decisions at companies I would like to work for. Also, in the past month, I have increased my connections by about 30 people, so that's good. I currently have 170 connections and I would like at least 30 more to hit that nice 200 connections milestone.

As it stands, for the first time since 2004, I may not be able to attend TIFF in September. I may use that time to visit Los Angeles instead to a) hopefully have an interview(s), and b) find an apartment. It would be easier to find a place to live by actually visiting the place and putting down a deposit in person. My current goal is to be in Los Angeles the last week of October. Perfect planning would have me start a new job on Monday, October 31st. My current lease ends on October 31st, but I am planning to be on the road to LA by October 19th so that I can take a carefully planned solo road trip drive from Michigan to California, and arrive sometime on Saturday, October 22. I will have a week to get settled in LA before getting into the thick of things that following week. Doesn't that sound like a Type A personality plan? I'm flexible of course, so this time table could be in place for a September move if the opportunity presents itself.

I have created a Go Fund Me page to seek any additional financial assistance for my big relocation plans. I have no idea how people will respond to it, but if it helps in raising some much needed extra funds for this big change in my life, I will be eternally grateful for that. Thanks!

Go Fund Simone :)

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

London and Paris via Toronto

Flying friendlier and cheaper skies via Air Canada to London
I have mentioned for the past couple of years about how I planned to take my niece to London and Paris for her high school graduation gift in June 2016. Well that time is quickly approaching, like just 100 days from now. So this past weekend, I finally bought our transatlantic airfare and I'm sighing a huge relief. I was getting nervous when I started to check on flight prices last November. About that same time, I went ahead and purchased our British Airways tickets from London to Paris because those seats sell out very fast - especially due to the disruptions the Eurostar has experienced recently due to the migrant problems in Calais, we decided to fly to Paris instead of taking the train (which we really wanted to do). Consequently, I started to research the prices for London from Detroit and it was migraine inducing.

I'm used to paying north of $1500 to fly to London these days. But that's for me. Now that I'm buying my niece's ticket and covering her hotel, I have to be on the lookout for more reasonable prices. My mother invited herself, so I have to purchase all three of our tickets now, so that I can select seats for us to sit together. Well, long story short, the non-stop Delta flight from Detroit to London was close to $1900 each, down from $2300 last fall. The comfort and convenience of just driving 20 minutes to Detroit Metro airport for this direct flight, at $1900 a pop, was not worth it. Thankfully, I had an epiphany, and I research flights departing from Pearson airport in Toronto. Low and behold, Air Canada has direct flights to London for $850 each. Sure, I would have to drive almost 5 hours to get to that airport, but it will only cost $40 in gas, and we can make a fun road trip out of it. And this is on top of the fact that I have driven to Toronto half a dozen times. Sold! I literally saved us $3000 in airfare by driving to Toronto in five hours, than dealing with a mere 20 minute drive to Detroit Metro and being ripped off.

American airliners are screwing Americans left and right, and those airports w/in driving distance of Toronto, will continue to lose a lot of American customers because we are saving so much money by going to another country to fly to, another country. I'm not asking for airfare to be dirt cheap, but reasonable. If Air Canada in Toronto can charge customers at their flex fare rate of $850, surely Delta could offer the same. But nope, they won't do it because unlike Pearson, at DTW, Delta has a monopoly on direct flights to London and there are people, who like me in the past, coughed up the money for the convenience of flying from their home airport of Detroit. I'm traveling to the UK with family for the first time and we have to be budget minded. In the end, we will be flying the friendlier and more economical skies from Toronto! I'm so excited about my Euro trip with my niece and mother before I take off for my new life in California later this year.

Monday, January 25, 2016

I Won the Pearl Jam Fan Club Lottery!

I have been a fan of Pearl Jam since 1991/1992, and I first saw them in concert at Crisler Arena in Ann Arbor, March 1994. My love for Pearl Jam has never wavered. Although I could not always travel far to see them, or had the money to see them back to back within driving distance, I have been able to see them approximately 25 times. Some of you may say, 'What? You saw PJ 25 times?' But trust me when I say that a lot of old timer hard core fans like me, are just much more hard corer and have deeper pockets, and more vacation days to travel and see the band anywhere in the world.

There were sad dry spots of several years where I was simply not able to go to PJ concerts, and it really hurt my morale. I was working poor broke and depressed and it was common sense to pay rent and buy food than travel to the East coast to see Pearl Jam. Meanwhile, many of my jamily friends had no financial problems and went to many shows. There were times when I had to scrape up the money for my annual membership, which in years past was 10 to 15, to 25, and now $40. But in recent years, I've been doing much better and I was able to see Pearl Jam in Toronto in 2011, then in Detroit 2014, and now in 2016, I'm going back East, to Philadelphia to see the best band in the world. It was important for me to win fan club lottery tickets to this leg of their 2016 North American tour because it's my last time living in the state of Michigan as a resident, that I can drive from home to the East coast to see the band. Back in 1997 to 2001 while living on the East coast, I was able to see PJ in Maryland, in New York at Madison Square Garden and at Jones Beach, and there's something really cool about seeing Pearl Jam in those crazy states. I've seen Pearl Jam in 2003 in Pittsburgh, so traveling a few hours further East to Philly will close out my mid-west/east coast living experience and enjoying 'local' PJ shows.

In the future, post-October 2016, I'll be in California, and I will have to fight the people out there for lottery fan club tickets. Meanwhile, as I'm currently in Michigan, only two cities were really feasible for me to attend: Philadelphia on April 29 (a Friday night show), or Toronto on May 10 (a Tuesday night show). Philly was my first choice and Toronto was second. I didn't bother with General Admission (GA) tickets because, and let's face it, there are a lot of tall and fat people in the world, and combine that with Pearl Jammers, the GA is not so much fun. I have the energy and stamina, but I'm short, petite, and I want to see and enjoy the show without some old frat boys all up in my shit - jamily or not, unless I'm in the front row of GA and wearing depends, the GA is over rated.

WHY this lottery? As a fan club member since 1996, I have a nice low member number. The lower your membership number, the higher you are on the seniority food chain. The lottery works by you selecting the shows you want to attend and ranking them from highest priority to the lowest. When the lottery begins, they randomly select people, and you may win the opportunity to simply and comfortably purchase premium fan club seats without all the hand wringing and refreshing your browser on Ticketbastard on sale day. I wanted to go to Philly so bad that I put the wheels in motion to just GO there, some way, some how. Last week I booked a hotel within walking distance of the Wells Fargo Center, the Courtyard Marriott Philadelphia South at The Navy Yard. I just checked at, and the hotel is now all sold out the night I'll be there. I'm sure Pearl Jam fans are staying at that place.

I'm just so damn happy and relieved. I could only afford to go to one show, and taking a Friday off from work is all I can afford to do, so this is perfect. I'm grateful to the 10 Club and Pearl Jam for making this happen, it's a great way to close out my time here in Michigan by being able to drive to an East Coast PJ show this spring!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

My Fun and Short Trip to Palm Springs, California

A month ago I blogged about an exciting adventure I spontaneously found myself in. I had an opportunity to attend the Palm Springs International Film Festival (PSIFF) Awards Gala on January 2nd, and I jumped on this unique chance to attend. This was an extended Christmas gift to myself, as well as a chance for me to visit early in the year, my future home state of California. I have visited California many times, but this was the first time I visited a desert city. I've been to San Francisco, San Diego, Los Angeles, and now, Palm Springs. Unlike the other bustling large cities of CA that I have visited, Palm Springs really is laid back, walkable, calm, and quiet. It's a place where the rich go to chill out, go to spas, eat well, or hike the mountains.

I arrived in PS at 8:30pm PST/11:30pm EST. Although I was tired, I was so excited about being in PS. It was totally dark and a little nippy outside, but no where as cold as in Detroit. I arrived at my hotel, checked in, and walked along the manicured lawn to my room. The Days Inn PS was on the budget side at $115 a night, but it was perfectly located in the northern side of town and newly renovated. The pool area was just outside my door and as I walked by, people were relaxing in the heated Jacuzzi. I was starving so I walked about 10 minutes up the road to Del Taco and devoured a burrito. I went to bed in a king size bed so excited about being in my favorite state and looking forward to the next day's event.
Wow, mountains!

My room 324 was just straight ahead on this small path.
I woke up early to the bright sun peeking through the side of the curtains of my sliding door window. I open the widows and wow, the mountain views almost brought tears to my eyes. That's a mountain!!! I literally walked around PS smiling at the sun, the mountains, and the palm trees. It's amazing the restorative powers a quick visit to paradise has on one's soul. While there are neighborhoods in PS that are normal looking working class streets, there are many sections of town that have homes that cost tens of millions of dollars. They were absolutely breathtaking, so much so, I got dizzy looking at them.

For my short visit to PS, I was to attend the festival awards gala, spend time with my friends, shop, walk about, and watch one movie. The select pictures after this cut will present my trip in a nutshell.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Film Review: The Revenant (3.5/4)

During my brief visit to Palm Springs this past weekend for the Film Festival gala, I was able to watch one movie, The Revenant on Sunday night. I have long admired Leonardo DiCaprio and have enjoyed much of his work. So I knew going in watching The Revenant, I would see Leonardo in his most top form. The Revenant is inspired by true events about a fur trading frontier man, Hugh Glass. As unforgiving as life can be in the vast wilderness somewhere in early 1800s America, people have each other and the cruelties of mother nature to contend with. The film opens with Hugh, played by Leonardo, and his half-Pawnee Indian son, hunting. Their camp is attacked by Indians in a horrific battle scene that pulls you in and gets your adrenaline pumping, makes you avert your eyes and is reminiscent to the too realistic opening battle scene of Saving Private Ryan. Among the fur trappers who survived is a surly and jaded John Fitzgerald, played by the outstanding Tom Hardy. Moving away from the siege, the survivors are dependent on Glass to help them reach a safe outpost. In the first of many unbelievable near death events, Glass is ferociously attacked by a bear that is protective of her cubs. The CGI effects is near perfection in the creation of the bear, and you feel the complete horror that Glass experiences, and every rip of skin, every toss and being flipped over several times like a piece of hamburger. When Glass is found by his comrades, he's so messed up and they can't believe he's alive. Fitzgerald makes it clear that Glass needs to be put out of his misery for his own sake. And eventually, he gets the chance to deal with Glass with devastating results.

The Revenant, or rather, The Revenge is relentless is revealing all the trials Glass has to go through as he's hell bent on revenge for being left for dead. The film becomes slightly comical in the Tom and Jerry type of deathly misadventures that Glass endures. It's like he's a human cat and has nine lives. How can a man who was mauled by a grizzly bear keep going on and on and on? And that's where Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's talent comes in by using beautiful spiritual imagery that helps us understand the inner strength that compels Glass to find Fitzgerald and kill the fuck out of him. Suspension of disbelief needs to be employed big time when watching The Revenant because the average man living in the 1820s only had a life expectancy up to 40, and most were simple farm people. So for Glass to experience the following harrowing events is a bit too much to accept: bear mauling, untreated infection from said mauling, fever, no medicine, unprotected from the freezing elements, frostbite (they didn't have North Face back then), broken leg, throat ripped open, rotting skin, hunger/malnutrition, PTSD, mourning, chapped lips, falling off a mountain cliff only to be saved by a tree, going over a waterfall in freezing cold water, out running Indians with arrows, being shot at, and a very, very bloody crescendo fight with Fitzgerald. And these are the outrageous sagas I can remember. I rolled my eyes when Glass, somehow, escaped death, again.

The Revenant is a well made and entertaining film, but it's not for the faint of heart and it's extremely bloody and brutal. Regarding all the talk about Leonardo finally winning his Oscar, well, he's definitely deserving of an Oscar, and the emotional narrative of him being nominated 5-6 times already and not winning, certainly has Oscar gurus, bloggers, and some voters itching like hell to just give it to him. Just give it away so that Leonardo can calm down a bit and not take on year after year of Oscar bait films in pursuit of the Oscar. I'm sure loads of voters are tired of him, feel sorry for him, are feeling guilty, and they are tired of voting for actors who simply gave stronger performances in the past. The sentimental tide is definitely on Leo's side, but I'm stubborn and believe another actor had the better performance this year (Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs - see review).

With Leonardo receiving so much manufactured and PR paid for praise, his co-star, Tom Hardy is being ignored in the Oscar chatter. Within 12 months, Tom has been consistently outstanding in Locke, Legend, Mad Max: Fury Road, and now The Revenant. Tom Hardy deserves to be acknowledged with an Oscar nomination for The Revenant, and hell, he could even win! Whenever he was on screen as the dirty rotten Fitzgerald, I loved it. He had more dialogue than Leo - but then again -  employing suspension of disbelief - because Glass had his throat ripped to shreds by a Grizzly bear, so he couldn't say much. Sigh.

Go see The Revenant if you're up for a wild adventure tale of survival by any means necessary, witness the miracle of self-healing by being pissed off and revengeful, and lots of blood and gore (humans and animals).

Grade: 3.5 out 4 arrows