Monday, May 22, 2017

U2 at the Rose Bowl!

Inside the Rose Bowl
I've been a fan of U2 since 1985, and I saw them for the first time in 1987! I since then have seen them in 1992, 1994, 2001 and now 2017 at the Rose Bowl where they are playing Saturday and Sunday. That is four decades of supporting this band! As I type this blog entry, I hear U2 playing tonight - right now, they are playing In The Name of Love. It was a fantastic concert and it reminded me of why I have loved their work for so long. Back in 1987, U2 toured for The Joshua Tree and I saw them at their ever first stadium sold out show at the Pontiac Silverdome in Michigan. As U2 rose to more and more commercial fame, I fell to the side because their music changed to something more pop and significantly moving away from the heavier political messages of their earlier music. Their music post-1995 still had some political messages, but the style was stamp approved corporate pop music. I got more interested in the anti-corporate sound of the alternative rock scene from Seattle (Pearl Jam is my all time favorite band).  There was a special dedication to Chris Cornell, the lead singer of Temple of the Dog, Soundgarden, and Audioslave, who sadly passed away this past week.

Since I live 4 miles from the Rose Bowl, there was no way I was going to pay $50 to park my damn car. Saving that $50 allowed me to buy a $45 t-shirt. So I found a side street to park my car for free, and it was only a 20 minute walk to the stadium. My seat was up in the heavens so I knew that in order to avoid the rush of fans at the end of the concert, I had to leave about 15 minutes before the concert was scheduled to end at 11pm and to avoid the 60k people in attendance trying to leave at the same time. I heard them sing I Will Follow, another of my old time great songs from U2, as I walked to my car. And it's a good thing that I got a head start because the concert ended on schedule, and I made it home at 11:10. No traffic headaches at all.

I look forward to seeing U2 in concert again, but I'll have to get used to the nosebleed seats as I'm not interested in joining their fan club for pre-sale tickets, nor do I have $3000+ to spare to buy a VIP ticket for access right at King Bono's feet. I love him, but I love Eddie Vedder and Pearl Jam more. But I do see why U2 is the biggest concert attraction of all time; they put on an excellent show, very visually beautiful and fun. I'm proud to say I've been a fan of U2 for over 30 years. Maybe one day I'll be able to see them on their turf in Ireland!

Here are some pictures from the concert. It was a great experience and now I have one concert event under my belt from the Rose Bowl (I'll see Coldplay there in October).

About to get in line to enter the Rose Bowl. 

A view from my seat in Sec 9, Row 76, Seat 128.

My seat. I was lucky to get my bag through security.

The show begins. The Joshua Tree in lights!

Beautiful scenes on the screen behind the band as they play.

King Bono!

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Got Tickets to Hamilton in September - Thanks to AmEx!


For a couple of months, I have been preparing for April 30th, the day the Pantages Hollywood tickets go on sale for Hamilton, the 11 Tony award winning Broadway play.  Knowing that tickets were going to be difficult to purchase, I knew that I had to zero in on a specific date, a Saturday, and a specific time. Weekend shows of plays usually have a matinee and an evening show. My birthday this year falls on a Saturday, so I wanted to shoot for a 2pm show on that day. About two weeks ago, I emailed a new local friend asking her if she was interested in going to see Hamilton with me if I got two tickets. I was aiming for the lowest prices between $75 to $125 naturally, and therefore, making it easier for me to get two tickets. However, I have not heard back from her so I reckon she's not interested.

The day has arrived and I logged onto my Ticketmaster account, and updated the payment information with my new Gold Delta Skymiles American Express card. And at 10am sharp, I clicked on the September 30th date, and I was automatically placed into a 40 minute holding pattern. I opened up another browser on my computer, and waited. I then logged onto my ipad, and waited. Then I figured I should call Ticketmaster while on hold online. I've been through many stressful ticket buying experiences before, but this one was strange. This is a FIVE month run for a play that has a show every day except Monday and I just thought that it would be a challenge, but not this much. I pushed the redial button at least 3 dozen times before I got through. Meanwhile, on the computer, a $650 ticket popped up. I clicked 'try again' to get lower priced tickets.

So as I'm on the phone, it took forever to have the 'system' find me a ticket, but at this time, I was still trying for 2 tickets at the lower prices. After they found two tickets and asked if I wanted to pay $1332, I said, 'hell no', try again, but this time, I just went for one. I was willing to buy two tickets up to the individual prices of $125, but not two tickets at $650 each! I'm not one for buying tickets only to resell at a profit to a person eagerly wanting to go to this show just like me. That's greedy and rude. So since this is a birthday gift to myself, and the ONLY way I was going to see Hamilton on my birthday was to splurge and buy the expensive $650 ticket, I bit the bullet and purchased it. Thank God I have this new American Express card - which was used for a true emergency, as in this case! I'll have my ticket mailed to me, and I was told that the ticket is in row H, so that's like 8 rows from the stage. AWESOME!!! (Click to see seating chart & prices)

I cannot justify paying this price for any other play, unless it's staring my favorite actor. But now that I have proven to myself that I am willing to pay at most $650, I should not trip out if in the future I need to consider buying a top ticket hovering around the $300-400 range for an excellent theater experience. But this will in no way be a habit. I don't anticipate being in the position of wanting a ticket with such high interest in the foreseeable future, so this is why I'm not too disturbed about paying this kind of money to see Hamilton.

What does irk me is that the tickets are priced in a way that scalpers buy all the cheaper tickets, and then go resell them at 4-6x the face value. So if someone really wanted to see this play on their birthday, and the only tickets that are available are through Stubhub or resold via Ticketmaster, that person will be paying through the nose for those tickets.



Case in point: The image above is for the September 30, 2pm performance, the same show I will be attending. The tickets listed for Mezzanine Left Center were bought by the seller at $95 each. The bastard is now selling these tickets for $415. I pity the desperate fool who buys those tickets, I really do.

I think the Hamilton theater company got wise about the horrible ticket pricing and scalping on Broadway, so they upped the tickets for the very best seats, knowing that those who really wanted to see the play and had the money to buy at that price, were set. But those who had to fight for the rest, risk possibly paying just as much if not more for the regularly priced expensive seats if they had to resort to the greedy, evil scalpers and resellers. You know what... let's just lump them all together. Someone deliberately buying tickets TODAY, with NO intention of going to that performance, and reselling at 5x the face value, is a damn scalper too.

But alas, the theory of supply and demand for extremely popular events will always have scalpers reselling affordable tickets to good fans who could not buy them fast enough from scalpers. I'm lucky I was able to be in the position to buy a high priced ticket on my own, and not resort to buying a poor seat at premium seat prices. Those who do buy a mezzanine seat at a premium seat price need to have a better understanding of the value of their seat and experience, at the value they are willing to pay for it. Is it ok to spend over $400+ for a nosebleed seat instead of a superior seat at just $200 more? If they think that's fine, they are justifying the existence of scalpers.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

An Evening with Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey at Film Independent - April 20, 2017
I'm not the biggest Oprah Winfrey fan, but you have to give credit where credit is due. She's a remarkable, multi-talented/multi-hyphenated person who does a lot of good for the world. When I realized that she was going to appear at the screening of her new HBO movie, I had to be there! The latest thing Oprah has done was help bring the very important story of Henrietta Lacks to life. Based on a New York Times bestselling book by Rebecca Skloot, Oprah produced and starred in the HBO film (airing this weekend), The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, directed by George C. Wolfe. I had the pleasure to attend the Film Independent screening for Immortal on April 20th, where Oprah and the director engaged in a lively conversation afterwards. Oprah admitted that even she wasn't aware of Henrietta Lacks, and it really saddened her. Ms. Lacks was a black woman who lived in Baltimore and was diagnosed with cervical cancer. She died in 1951, but Johns Hopkins hospital removed her cancer cells and used them for research and study that would lead to groundbreaking medical and scientific breakthroughs that have revolutionized all of humanity. Back in those days, it was protocol for human tissue to be used without consent for research. For those with a background and interest in science, you may be more familiar with the scientific name for her cells as HELA cells.

According to the wiki definition of HELA, it is described as, "A cell type in an immortal cell line used in scientific research. It is the oldest and most commonly used human cell line." HELA is abbreviated for HEnrietta LAcks, the human donor of these important and immortal cells. Read up on Henrietta's legacy from this current article at CNN.

The conversation with Oprah was very engaging and informative. She's really proud to be a part of this film. She plays Deborah Lacks, Henrietta's daughter. Deborah had a life long crusade to bring her mother's story to life. Oprah explained that she was hesitant to take on the role, but when she heard one of the interview tapes of Deborah talking to the writer of the 'Immortal' book, Rebecca Skloot, which the movie in based on, Oprah learned that Deborah wanted Oprah to play her if a movie were ever made. Well, her wish came true.

I was able to get my autograph from Oprah and I thanked her for bringing this very important story to our attention, and she said, 'You're welcome'. I shook the director's hand and told him how much I enjoyed the film. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks airs on HBO this weekend. Please watch it, it's a very important film. We have all benefited from Henrietta in ways we can't comprehend.

Oprah deserves an Emmy nomination for 'Immortal'

Director George C. Wolfe and Oprah

Fans getting their autographs

Heading to the wine and cheese reception afterwards

A variety of wines to enjoy

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Personal Shopper at LACMA


In their second collaboration, Kristen Stewart and director Olivier Assayas go down a creepy American in Paris Gothic film road with Personal Shopper. I was in attendance Monday night at the Film Independent at LACMA screening where after wards, there was a Q&A. Kristen stars as Maureen, a young woman who is still mourning the death of her twin brother three months prior, and is driven to use her medium skills to contact him. She and her brother made a pact long ago that whoever dies first, must let the other one know they are ok on the other side. It’s been a few months since he died, and Maureen hasn’t heard from her brother. She lives in Paris as a personal shopper to a selfish and demanding fashionista/model name Kyra, but Maureen primarily communicates with Kyra through messages left on a dining room table. Feeling isolated in a city she hates and a job that is soul destroying, Maureen is compelled to remain in Paris, the city her brother died, to conjure up a conversation with him, but by doing so, she may have opened up another door.

While Maureen is trying to communicate with her brother in the vacant home where he last lived, she hears sounds and has a frightening experience that may or may not be from her twin. Did Maureen make contact with a different spirit, or did this thing manifest from something, or someone else more sinister? Whatever it is, she awakened something and it begins to stalk her. Soon, this entity, or someone possibly playing mind games with her, sends text messages to her encouraging her to explore the things she is forbidden to do, and one of those things are to simply disobey Kyra’s orders of not trying on her fancy designer clothes. By breaking this rule in secret, Maureen is forced to see how isolated life in Paris has made her feel, and by experience the freedom to do what she wants so she can feel alive and escape her mourning. But she still misses her brother, and is obsessed with contacting him. In a Hitchcockian twist, Maureen visits Krya’s apartment to find a bloody murder scene and she is soon enveloped in fear of the supernatural presence that has been haunting and taunting her.


Personal Shopper reveals an intimate view of how each of us manage our grief, and how normal it is to grieve and yearn for some kind of sign for the dearly departed. And if you’re a medium wanting to use your innate skills to contact your twin, that grief can be compounded when you think you have failed; and Maureen gives up hope at a moment when all she had to do was turn around. In her most mature role, Kristen Stewart was marvelous as the tenacious grief stricken young woman. In their Q&A, Kristen and Olivier Assayas described their working relationship as Kristen making his directing more easy and organic, and Kristen says that working with Olivier is so comforting that she will do anything for him because his direction is so natural and inviting. 

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Film Review: La La Land (A-)


I'm not one for musicals, I usually cringe to the hokey dancing and singing of some musicals I have tried to watch in the past. So when they are released, I tend to ignore them. But in the case of La La Land, there was something magical about this film that really lured me in to it. Besides having a slight girl crush on the gorgeous and extremely talented Emma Stone, and having a grand appreciation for the sexy and somber Ryan Gosling, the story about two young people in Los Angeles struggling to realize their dreams resonated with me, because, I'm a new transplant to Los Angeles seeking my dreams too. The film was released in early December, and I purchased a ticket to see it on Friday, December 9th. But for the first time in my life, after buying an advanced purchase ticket, I actually forgot to go see the movie right after work that Friday because I was very tired and stressed from a busy week at work. It was my intentions to still see it, and the perfect time to watch La La Land was just a few days after it received 14 Oscar nominations!

La La Land has Mia (Emma) as an aspiring actress from Nevada living and working in Los Angeles at a coffee shop. She works at the Warner Brothers studio, right smack dab in the middle of all the action where she's constantly reminded about her dream to be a big star, but first, she has to get a call back from the gazillion auditions she's been going to. By chance, while caught in LA's infamous traffic, Mia has a road rage situation with mercurial Sebastian (Ryan), a struggling Jazz musician who has aspirations to be a successful old school jazz musician and jazz club owner. These two ambitious people bump into each other once more at the height of personal lows and over time, come to share the miseries of the pursuit of their dreams and support each other in obtaining their separate dreams.

La La Land is absolutely beautiful, charming, and fun. The chemistry between Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling is undeniable! It's not a perfect film because as an Angeleno, I was left wondering how could Mia and Sebastian afford their lifestyles and partake in some of the activities around Los Angeles under the guise of being struggling young artists. But that's where the suspension of disbelief takes over in many of the fantasy aspects of this vibrant film. The opening and ending singing and dance sequences were a joy to watch and really made me appreciate the artistic directing, editing, film score, choreography, cinematography, costumes, makeup, etc. of La La Land. The dancing and singing done by both Emma and Ryan were incredible, really demonstrating their abilities of being multi-hyphenated creative talents.


Just when you think La La Land would have a typical La La happy ending, the smart mind game twist at the end really is bittersweet and Mia and Sebastian's polite sad smiles really tugged at my heart and left me thinking about the film and these two charming characters for the remainder of the day. The moral of the story is, in the pursuit of one's dreams, don't neglect the rare magical event of true love - with ego aside, someone has to give up something to be with and support their loved one so that they both can enjoy their mutual successes together.

La La Land has been nominated for 14 Oscars, I will not be surprised if it won at least 8 or 9 categories, including Best Actress for Emma Stone, and I'm rooting for Ryan Gosling too. I believe the movie has Best Picture all locked up, no question at all! It's about Los Angeles, Hollywood, and actors/musicians, and the Academy loves films about themselves. However, as brilliant as director Damien Chazelle is, I think the Academy will spread the love and make the best director win an opportunity to make history and give it to someone else.


Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Changing of the Guard... for the Worse!


Next week, President Obama will not be the president anymore. Instead, a complete feeble minded, narcissistic, vile, greedy, sexist, ignorant old fool, who permitted the Russian mafia, lead by Putin who is afraid of Hillary, to help him "win" the election, will become president to THOSE who voted for him. I did not vote for him, and neither did the majority of voters, all 65 million of them, who voted for Hillary Clinton. I will not taint this blog with his name, a name I won't even capitalize or write in reverence. He's an anomaly that I hope is impeached soon and have the karmic forces give him severe whiplash. I'm proud to say that I have no friends who voted for him, I don't associate with people like that.

If you have a passport, make sure it's not expired or expiring very soon, otherwise, get it renewed asap. I have a nightmarish thought that many of us Americans who did not vote for this idiot, will need their passport and will book a one way flight to another country (or drive to Canada).

Good luck America, we'll be needing it! And to those of you who voted for him, you deserve every single bad policy he implements to affect you!