Friday, August 28, 2009

Project Runway

Now that Project Runway has moved from Bravo to Lifetime, fans wondered if the show would change. Except of course, that the show was filmed months and months ago, while their eventual place of broadcast was still being, uh, let's say debated. (that's what lawyers do, right? debate...)

So it looks very much the same as it did on Bravo. They're in LA instead of NYC, but since most of the action happens indoors (the sewing room, the runway set, their apartments), what's going on outside the window is not as noticeable as one might think. I keep forgetting they're in LA actually.

Project Runway episodes are fun to watch twice. The second time, it's interesting to watch the creative process, as they struggle with the design and execution, all the while knowing who ended up winning and losing. It does appear the judges this season are quickly disposing of the ... how shall I say... the more avant garde, more wacky designers rather quickly. These designers might not be as commercially viable on a broad basis if they were to eventually win, but they sure can be fun to watch.

I always counted on Bravo to rerun episodes so I could either catch up if I missed one, or catch it a second time. To be fair, on Bravo, I often accidentally found the repeats, was never quite sure when they would be on. Still not sure how Lifetime is handling their repeats, hopefully fans will be able to catch episodes that we miss or want to re-view.

The biggest change now, I think, is that both Project Runway and Top Chef have just started their new seasons. Bravo used to rotate them, so they were usually either airing one or the other. Now we're getting to know both the new chefs and the new designers at the same time, figuring out who we love and who we love to hate. Well, at least they're on different nights, so we don't have to choose a favorite. ... Wouldn't it be nice if these were the biggest problems we had to face in our daily life? It's true, they're just TV shows ... but they are fun to watch.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Top Chef Masters

As a fan of television, and having worked in the industry, I do enjoy watching TV. I worry that scripted dramas and comedies are becoming too scarce, and hope that we can achieve some kind of balance, so both scripted and reality-based shows have equal airtime opportunies.

That said, there are a few reality shows that I really enjoy. Top Chef and Top Chef Masters are both fun to watch, as skilled and talented chefs compete, using those unique skills.

Top Chef Masters has often been such a love-fest among all the chefs. It's nice to see experienced professionals, in a friendly competition, earning money for charity. They obviously respect each other and love what they do. Not as much conflict as on other shows, but, really, do we always need to see so much conflict? I realize it is the key to drama, but it seems like there's plenty of conflict in the world as it is.

As successful Chefs become more well-known through television, it must help their restaurant business. Personally, since Top Chef Masters, I want to go to San Francisco right now, and splurge on a meal at Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller's restaurant. And I would love to have a meal by and/or with Art Smith, he has so much joy in what he does. And I want to try the Mexican cuisine so carefully prepared by Rick Bayless. It's interesting to see how people's personalities come across on television. Some people are so likable, you just want to sit down with them over a beer and chat. Others... not so much...

A recent episode had a bit more tension, as one of the Masters seemed to question if the regular Top Chefs from past shows were really qualified to assist him. It didn't show him in the best light, but it seemed to me that perhaps he had never watched Top Chef in the past, or he would have known that all the contestants had, at the very least, basic chef skills.

There is more conflict in the regular Top Chef. Those chefs aren't as established as the Masters, and they're competing to personally receive money and to advance their own careers. It's not usually quite as friendly, they all take it a bit more seriously, as they have a more personal stake in the outcome.

Bravo TV does a great job with this type of show. I enjoy quite a bit of Bravo's programming.
I'm also a fan of Project Runway, and most fans realize that Bravo lost that show to Lifetime in a somewhat strange and drawn out legal battle. I'm still not sure how that happened, but it does appear that Lifetime is trying to expand their programming beyond just replaying Movies of the Week. Project Runway also involves competition between people with a certain set of skills and talents (fashion design).

I think viewers enjoy playing along at home, let's see, what would I make, using only ingredients or materials from a grocery store or a vending machine? Then the pros come up with things that we would have never thought of, and we think, wow, what a great idea! Creativity and inventiveness at work.

Tonight the new season of Top Chef starts, as well as the final episode of Top Chef Masters. I will be watching, cheering for my favorite Masters, and getting my first impressions of the new chefs. Also this week the new season of Project Runway starts, first time on Lifetime. It will be interesting to see if a change in networks (and the change from NY to LA) will change the show.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Woodstock, 40 years later, this time with prizes

In my last post I remembered Woodstock. Over the weekend I won a Woodstock prize package from a radio station! Woodstock was certainly in the air this weekend, so I guess I tapped into something. I certainly tapped into the redial button.

In addition to winning some DVD's, CD's, and a movie screening, this weekend I will be attending a concert with several of the original bands who played at the original Woodstock. Let's see, 40 years ago, so it will be a bunch of 60 and 70 year olds, playing rock and roll! Sounds about right... don't trust anyone under 50, right?

And remember, stay away from the brown acid ... reflux medicine.

Don't most concerts start at 8pm? This one starts at 7. It's the Woodstock Early Bird Special.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Woodstock - 40 years later

Amazing that Woodstock was 40 years ago. I was a bit too young to even consider going, and I don't remember if I had heard about it before it happened. Wheaton, Illinois was a long way from Woodstock (or Bethel), New York, so it wasn't exactly a local event. But later I listened to the album a lot, and remember the movie and the music so well. Can't wait to hear it again this weekend.

New York Times has some great coverage. Look at the slide show of photos by James Estrin, now 71, who was a Life Magazine Photographer at the time, and covered Woodstock. In the slide show, he talks about the experience, how he was accepted by the crowd, even though he was a member of "the establishment" (Life Magazine). And let's see, he would have been 31 ... and, remember? ... you didn't trust anyone over 30!
(Now we don't trust anyone under 50, right?)

There are PDFs of the original news articles from 1969, which are fun to read. And they asked readers who had attended to submit their photos... Some sent in pictures of their ticket stubs ... $7 admission to the festival.

This page has links to lots of the stories, articles, and photos ...

From Woodstock's 3 Days of Peace and Music in 1969, to Playing for Change's Peace Through Music in 2009. Maybe someday we will figure out how to use music to move towards peace. It's a nice thought.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Playing For Change / Peace Through Music

If you haven't heard of Playing For Change, or seen any of their videos on YouTube, I highly recommend you check it out. Great musicians around the world, playing together, even though they're miles apart.

A few years ago, a music producer recorded (audio and video) a street musician singing and playing guitar in Santa Monica. Then he and his crew started traveling around the world, recording other local musicians, playing along with each other, using headphones. I may not be explaining it very well, read all about it on their site:

I'm not involved in the project, I am just a fan. I first saw their story on Bill Moyers' show on PBS. Apparently this month (August) PBS stations nationwide will air their film, "Peace Through Music". Their website has a link so you can search the PBS schedules to see if it's airing on your local station. Check it out.

It's a great idea, with wonderful music by amazing musicians, all playing together from different countries around the world. Uniting the world through music. And what could be wrong with that?

Ceramics at the OC Fair

The Orange County Fair in Southern California is in its final week, ending August 9. I have volunteered a few days at the Ceramics area, in Crafters Village. There are people throwing pots on the wheels, but since I don't know how to do that, I'm demonstrating hand-building, and have worked on some small sculptures. Here's a picture, (not my best look, but oh well) on a night when I worked on a tree, a tiny bust, and in my hand... is a clay hand. The hand looked a bit creepy actually, looked kind of real... Now I have to decide if I will have these fired to make them permanent.

I have one more shift to work, this Friday afternoon, August 7. It's been fun, chatting with fairgoers about art and clay and various things. It's interesting how many people stop and say, "I used to do that, back in high school." I have encouraged them to try to find time for creative projects, but everyone seems so stressed about finding time. It's understandable, but it's a shame. Kids like to stop and look, since it's basically playing with mud. One boy asked me, "What if you make a mistake?" I said, "That's okay, it doesn't matter. You do make mistakes, and you just keep going." He looked a little shocked, actually. I guess we're so focused on doing things "right", whatever that is, that I think it keeps people from doing creative things. Somewhere in my readings about art, it said you had to be willing to do a lot of bad art, so I try to remember that and just keep going. I think it is the key to doing anything creative, to not worry about everything being perfect... or even good... but to just keep going. It's often easier said than done.

Working on art at the Fair in front of people can be difficult. It's intimidating, especially when you're just starting, and you have a blob of clay in front of you. People pause and look, puzzled, trying to figure out what on earth you're making. Another lesson I learned at some point is that in a situation like this, you have to just not care. And I mean that in the most positive way possible. You can't worry about what people are thinking, you just have to keep going. Even if, as happened the other day, you're working on a sculpture of a woman dancing... and several people think it's a chicken.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

I'm An Infomaniac

Information. I like having access to lots of information. I like to know stuff. I keep reference books around, so I can always check facts and answer vital questions that come up... What's in a Mudslide again? When was that movie made, and who is that actor?

Of course, now that we have the internet, information is everywhere. With internet access, you can google anything, and learn lots of new stuff, from lots of different, worldwide sources. I love this and use it often.

But what about our time? Weren't computers supposed to make our lives easier? (or did I dream that?) In addition to googling anything we want to know, we have to keep up with our email (more new messages in the Inbox?), and our old-school mail, and our Facebook page, and I can't even think about Twitter, and now it appears I have gone and started a blog. Where are we supposed to find the time to maintain all of these new communication and information pipelines?

In some cases, we're now doing things for ourselves that, in olden days, companies used to do for us, like printing out our own airline tickets, and bills, and paycheck stubs. We now spend our own time, ink, and paper, printing for ourselves. Where are we finding the time to keep up with all these new duties? Our lives are already jam-packed.

I'm curious to see how we will face our time management challenges in the 21st Century. With all this access to all this computer-based information and communication, what will fall by the wayside, just because we no longer have the time?